LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Lawyers for Word Aflame Ministries have filed suit against the city manager of La Habra Heights and a resident, alleging the church has been falsely accused of violating COVID-19 health orders.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court, alleges that La Habra Heights City Manager Fabiola Huerta and resident Juan Garcia have “repeatedly falsely accused plaintiffs of violating health orders.”
The suit alleges that the city “erroneously gave credence to Garcia’s false accusations and unlawfully joined him in conspiring to harass, fine and cite the church despite evidence that they are in full compliance with state and county health orders and the city’s municipal codes.”
World Aflame Ministries, which describes its congregation as representing a cross-section of society, alleged that despite moving their Bible study and Sunday worship services outdoors, the defendants continued to accuse the church of violating COVID-19 health orders.
According to the suit, county health officials visited the church on several occasions and it was found to be in compliance with public health protocols, including social distancing protocols, mask wearing and other requirements.
“Realizing that plaintiffs were beyond reproach in complying with federal, state, county and city laws and public health orders, defendants decided to focus on local subjective noise ordinances to continue to harass and persecute” the church, the complaint alleges.
Huerta said the city had no immediate comment, saying it had just learned of the complaint, which alleges violations of free exercise, assembly, speech, equal protection and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Garcia could not immediately be reached.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)