Los Angeles County fined a Catholic church $1,000 this month after the congregation allowed 11 individuals — including five women in prayer veils — to pray and worship inside the sanctuary on a Thursday in violation of COVID-19 health restrictions.
The citation against Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Arcadia, Calif., was issued Thursday, Oct. 15, the same day county inspectors say they conducted an investigation and witnessed “approximately 11 parishioners exiting the church facility at roughly 8:45 am to 8:55 am out the back door of the facility into the parking lot,” according to the inspection report. Some of them were women “wearing prayer veils,” the report said.
The large sanctuary can seat around 500 people and holds mass each morning.
The county fined the church $500 for failing to follow health restrictions governing indoor worship and $500 for blocking an inspector from entering the facility.
Thomas More Society, which is representing the church, says it is considering challenging the actions. Thomas More previously sued the county on behalf of the church’s prior, Farther Trevor Burfitt, who is challenging the state’s restrictions on churches. The suit was filed in September.
“There are dozens of churches in Arcadia – and hundreds in Los Angeles County – yet the parish of Father Burfitt, who is suing Los Angeles County, happens to be a church that these county workers choose to spy on and harass,” said Thomas More Society special counsel Paul Jonna. “Heaping this harassment on Father Burfitt at the same time that he is asking the California Superior Court to uphold his religious rights and prevent the county from continuing to violate them is unacceptable. The constitutional right to petition for grievances includes the right to file a lawsuit, without retaliation or targeting.”
The restrictions on churches, Thomas More said, “have severely obstructed the rights of Fr. Burfitt and others throughout California, despite the guarantees promised in the state constitution.”
“The perceived threat of Covid-19 has produced a despotic obsession among some governors with controlling houses of worship,” Jonna said. “Father Burfitt and other religious believers deserve to be treated the same as Lakers fans, thousands of whom gathered in Los Angeles following its NBA title clincher on October 11.”
Photo courtesy: Unsplash
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.