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The Latest on the Cross Culture Christian Center (April 4):

In response to the county’s order, attorney Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the National Center for Law & Policy issued a statement.

The church intends on continuing to safely gather for worship during Christianity’s most holy week, exercising unalienable and fundamental rights protected by the First Amendment’s right to peaceably assemble, freedom of speech, and the free exercise of religion, while simultaneously observing CDC recommended COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. The U.S. Constitution is not suspended by a virus.

Dean Broyles

Original story continues below:

LODI, Calif. (KTXL) — San Joaquin County’s interim public health officer issued an order prohibiting public assembly at a Lodi church after officials say church members defied a previous request. 

According to the city of Lodi, the police department had previously requested that Cross Culture Christian Center members suspend their meetings since it “violated the County’s public health order prohibiting gatherings.”

“It’s unfortunate we have to go to these lengths when the threat of COVID-19 is so clear,” said City Attorney Janic Magich in Friday’s press release. “It is gratifying, however, to see other churches in Lodi understand the responsibility to protect public health by suspending in-person gatherings.”

The new order was issued Friday and applies to Bethel Open Bible Church, which is where the Cross Culture Christian Center had continued to hold meetings, according to officials.

The Cross Culture Christian Center leases its gathering space from the Bethel Open Bible Church, which the city says has been cooperating with the city and county’s efforts. 

Police first noticed the members meeting on March 25 and approached them to inform them they were violating the stay-at-home order. On March 29, the city says officers noticed they were still meeting. 

“We hold truly to the belief that the church should be meeting as much as possible,” Pastor Jon Duncan told FOX40.

The church’s attorney sent the city of Lodi and the Lodi Police Department a cease and desist letter citing their religious freedom had been violated.

“We simply believe that constitutional rights are not suspended by a virus,” said attorney Dean Broyles.

Duncan said his church had already implemented safety measures such as hand-washing stations and spacing out seating.