The Rock Church and El Cajon…Could this See a Legal Challenge?

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August 12, 2014 (El Cajon) The question raised by Ray Lutz to the City Council was two fold. The first was regarding the Brown Act. Lutz alleges that the City Council violated the Act by having closed door discussions on the proposal by the Rock Church to the City of El Cajon. In Lutz’s view these discussions should have been open door.

The second issue that Lutz raised today was on the establishment clause, which establishes the separation of Church and State. In his mind the City of El Cajon is giving preference to one religion over all others.

When asked about how far Lutz was willing to go, he said he was in conversations with among others Mike Aguirre, who is a former City Attorney for the City of San Diego. This is the kind of case that in his view has gone to the United States Supreme Court in the past. The Interview in full is at the bottom.

Bonnie Price also raised similar issues, about “the entanglement” of the Church and State. The facility in question is a city owned building. When speaking to City Council she pointed out to the allegations of Sex Abuse that have been reported among others by Channel 10. She also raised the constitutional matter of separation of Church and State.

What the City is exploring, according to city documentation, is for the Rock Church to use the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC) for 132 days of the year, exclusively. In fact, the Church would use it for Sunday Services. They would pay $216,000 annual rent, with a five year option at a 2% annual increase.

They would also have access to a land lease of 13,000 square feet parcel immediately adjacent to the ECPAC. They would be able to build a two story, 20,000 square feet facility for primary use by the church. This is at the cost of the Church. They would pay the city $4,000 per month as lend lease. After thirty-five years the city would take over the building.

The theater will be available at a 75% on both Friday and Saturdays for other uses. It is also said that the Church would have no say on what shows are performed.

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According to Ricky Page, one of the Pastors at the Church, one of the reasons they approached the City with this proposal was that they have outgrown their current facilities, at what once was a Michaels. They have anywhere from 2500 to 3000 parishioners every Sunday, and they simply need a larger facility.

Other members of the Church emphasized the good the Church does, including feeding the hungry.

According to Kathy Zeman of the El Cajon Downtown Business Partners, this “proposed plan dovetails really artfully

with our goals and objectives, to help businesses to retain in El Cajon, to attract businesses in El Cajon and to attract people into downtown El Cajon.”

In her mind this will attract a continuous stream of people who will help to revitalize the business center and bring back life to the area.

She was not alone, and indeed the majority of speakers before the Council spoke about the good this agreement would do to the city, as it would attract about 5,000 people downtown every Sunday. This, according to Mayor Bill Wells would have a lot of churchgoers at local restaurants.

In the end the City Council voted unanimously to vote for the continuation of now exclusive negotiations with Mayor Pro Tem Gary Kendrik not voting since his son is a summer guidance counselor at a summer camp run by the petitioner.

@nadinbrzezinski on twitter

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Categories: El Cajon

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