A Catholic church in Los Angeles County is alleging that the local government dispatched two health department officials to harass them in retaliation for their priest suing Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials.
On Oct. 15, two health officials showed up at Our Lady of the Angels Church in Arcadia, California, a congregation affiliated with the dissident Society of St. Pius X. The officials watched approximately 11 parishioners leave the building from the sidewalk and then cited them for holding indoor worship services in violation of COVID-19 restrictions, according to a copy of the citation forwarded to The Daily Wire. The citation carried with it a $1,000 fine.
Father Trevor Burfitt, who oversees Our Lady of the Angels Church as well as several other mission churches, had earlier filed a lawsuit against Newsom and 19 other state officials on Sept. 29, claiming that his rights under the California Constitution were being violated eight different ways by the state’s continually extended lockdown orders.
Paul Jonna, an attorney with the Thomas More Society who is representing the church, characterized the fines to The Daily Wire as “a clear case of retaliation” for Burfitt’s lawsuit.
Referencing another incident that took place Oct. 20, Jonna said, “They sent county inspectors over to the church a few times and attempted to eject two women praying in a 500-capacity church, basically alone in the church—just praying, worshiping God and [they] were threatened with citations for being inside the church.”
“We think these orders have been unconstitutional from the beginning,” Jonna continued. Speaking more broadly, he said, “It’s clear that the executive branches of these Democrat-run states, they’re using this as a massive power grab. And the tyranny is just shocking to most Americans who understand how our country was founded and designed to have three separate branches of government. We’re seeing these states being controlled and governed by one branch. The legislatures are not really providing input and the courts are just sitting by.”
Jonna referenced Grace Community Church and its pastor John MacArthur, who are also being represented by the Thomas More Society in their legal wrangling with Los Angeles County. Government officials are trying to “make an example” out of MacArthur with citations and contempt proceedings, Jonna said, but he also noted that some of these same officials were encouraging and even participating in recent mass protests. “It’s a complete double-standard, it’s clearly unconstitutional, and we’re fairly confident that we’re going to get a good result in this case, given the facts that we have today.”
Jonna said Burfitt is also optimistic that the case will end well for him and his congregation. “He’s a faithful priest who knows his duties and that his people need him. He’s seeing the results of these shutdown orders causing far more harm than good at this point. He sees people need their faith community.”
“They need to be able to worship God and they need to be able to access the sacraments, and depriving them of this for the sake of their safety at this point in the pandemic, with the statistics as we understand them, it’s just unjustified and it’s unjust,” Jonna added.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Department did not immediately respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment.
Related: California Church Relents To County Demands After Fines Exceed $100,000