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-Ventura CA: Judge Argues with Church Over Ministry

by Dr. D ~ September 4th, 2014

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Here’s another church where a city government tried to step in and force them to move in order to stop their ministry to the poor and homeless.  After 6 years of ministry at that location, the city planning commission tried to close them down. Meanwhile it was left unresolved after the  city counsel reached a 2-2 deadlock on the issue.

The church won a preliminary injunction in court. But here is where it gets really interesting. In a follow up session in a federal district court the presiding judge argued with the church’s attorneys over the church’s mission statement and their understanding of Matthew 25.  From a Pacific Justice Institute newsletter:

Imagine a federal judge telling your church that the Bible doesn’t really support ministering to the homeless.

Well … that’s exactly what happened to a church in Ventura County, California. 

Harbor Missionary Church extended compassion and love toward the “least of these,” homeless persons who sought shelter on church property.  Not everyone was happy with the church’s outreach; local officials got involved, and against the advice of their own attorneys denied the church permission to continue serving the homeless.

Relying on a case PJI won a few years ago, the church went to federal court to protest the government’s interference with their outreach.  That’s where they encountered U.S. District Judge Manuel Real.  Incredibly, Judge Real ruled against the church after arguing with church attorneys from the bench about their interpretation of Scripture.  He claimed that Scriptures like Matthew 25:40 (“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat … I was a stranger, and you invited me in…”) do not support the church’s homeless ministry.   

The case is now on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which is famous for giving judgments which restrict religious liberty. Read the following articles about the case:

Harbor Missionary Church Files Emergency Motion in the Ninth Circuit to Continue Ministry to the Homeless

Ventura Accused of Stifling Good Samaritans

Response: Interestingly this city (official name: San Buenaventura) got its start as a mission to the poor native Indians in the area. A type of ministry they are now trying to restrict.

The district judge seems to be buying into a ‘freedom of worship’ stand which gives churches a right to hold worship services and nothing else. What ever his understanding about what a church is all about, he or the government on any level does not have the right to determine a Church’s ministry or it’s interpretation of the Bible.

This type of interference is what the founders were trying to do away with in their writing of the Constitution. Too often in 17th and 18th century Europe the governments tried to define official theological views to the condemnation of all others. That is why the Pilgrims and many other groups came to America in the first place. If this is allowed to continue then we will no longer have freedom of religion in America.            *Top

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1 Response to -Ventura CA: Judge Argues with Church Over Ministry

  1. Brian

    This is what Wikipedia has to say about Judge Real:

    “Real was noted for his judicial behavior in the 2000s. From 2001 to 2009, he had custody of disputed Filipino assets, which he had to account for in 2009. A federal appeals court panel then wrote “This curious statement plainly fails to account for all transactions involving the assets during the eight years they were held in the clerk of court’s custody. It doesn’t give the reader even a basic understanding of the path by which $33.8 million worth of assets deposited in September 2000 came to be worth $34.7 million today”.

    On January 11, 2012, the Ninth Circuit removed Real from the controversial case of Alexander Sanchez, a former M13 gang leader turned gang interventionist.His handling of this case has been compared to the judge in the infamous “Chicago Eight” trials by some commentators. Real has since been removed from other cases for behavior that threatened the fairness of the trials. In November 2012 it was reported that Real had shown a pattern over a number of years of making rulings in favor of companies in which he owned stock.”

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