Landlord ‘changed the locks’ on church after pastor refused to abide by shut-down order: report

Members of a church in Lodi, California, found themselves locked out of their place of worship after the building's landlord changed the locks in response to the pastor's refusal to abide by lockdown orders meant to combat the coronavirus.

The landlord of the Cross Culture Christian Center changed the locks, effectively blocking congregants from celebrating Palm Sunday services this weekend, according to a report from KTVU. The landlord's action come one week after the San Joaquin County Health Department ordered the church to shut down its in-person gatherings.

Speaking to Fox40 last week, Pastor Jon Duncan explained why he continues to hold church services despite the outbreak.

“We’re going to meet as often as we can meet, and we do believe that this right is protected by the 1st Amendment and should be considered essential,” he said.

An attorney for the church says Pastor Duncan plans to send a letter to California Governor Gavin Newson, asking him why he won't make churches exempt from lockdown orders the same way some other states have. Duncan is also reportedly planning a federal civil rights lawsuit “based on the fact that the governor and the county are violating my client’s 1st Amendment rights.”