Written by Steve Cannon for USSA News.
A Los Angeles County church is being repeatedly harassed by the Public Health Department. Thomas More Society attorneys are preparing to challenge the actions of two county “Environmental Health Specialists” who surveilled Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Arcadia, California, and slapped the parish with citations on October 15, 2020, after observing women in prayer veils leaving the building. Five days later, on October 20, the same two workers returned to threaten church personnel with more citations – compelling staff to eject the two masked worshipers who prayed inside the 500-capacity sanctuary. The harassment comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Farther Trevor Burfitt, prior at Our Lady of Angels, charging California Governor Gavin Newsom and 19 other state, county, and municipal officials for violating his religious rights.
“It’s ironic,” Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna observed, “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.”
The county “specialists,” who make annual salaries of between $47,000 and $87,000 have job descriptions detailing health inspection, investigation, and enforcement duties that revolve primarily around food sanitation and proper rubbish disposal.
“The county has apparently decided that food and garbage inspectors are qualified to police worship activities,” stated 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.”
Fr. Burfitt’s lawsuit challenges Newsom’s seemingly endless “State of Emergency” and the constitutional violations incurred with the resultant lockdown. Thomas More Society attorneys filed the complaint in California Superior Court against Newsom and the others in September.
In addition to serving as prior at Our Lady of Angels, Fr. Burfitt oversees mission churches in Kern, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Los Angeles Counties, and hosts a series of popular podcasts.
Newsom’s lockdown of the state of California is now in its eighth month. The restrictions imposed and enforced by Newsom and those under his direction 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,” noted Jonna. “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.”
See the citation issued on October 15, 2020, Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Arcadia, California, by Los Angeles County Environmental Health Specialist I Alennie Del Rosario Romero and Los Angeles County Environmental Health Specialist II Brenna Santiago, with $1,000 in levied fines – which the church paid, and the inspection report submitted by specialist Santiago, here
Read the Complaint charging eight counts of violation of California Constitution guarantees, filed on September 29, 2020, by the Thomas More Society on behalf of Father Trevor Burfitt, in Father Trevor Burfitt v. Gavin Newsom, et al. at the Superior Court of the State of California – County of Kern – Metro Division, here
About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, Omaha, and Fairfield, NJ, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit thomasmoresociety.org.