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Posted on: November 2, 2020

City Statement Regarding Lawsuit Filed on October 28, 2020 by Word Aflame Ministries

To the residents of La Habra Heights:

You may have heard about recent claims made by Word Aflame Ministries, and as members of our community, we want to update you on the situation. While it’s not our practice to comment on pending legal matters, we can tell you that we do not agree with the characterizations of the city’s actions. 

As you may know, our city’s general plan outlines that residents of La Habra Heights expect the relatively quiet and minimal noise environment of our city to be preserved.  The only dispute between the city and Word Aflame Ministries, quite simply, is about noise. Due to the State’s and County’s restrictions on indoor services, Word Aflame Ministries has been holding outdoor services at 2000 West Road. As a result, we have received complaints made by our residents about noise, and have reviewed and investigated those complaints. 

We want to assure our residents that the city has made numerous efforts to resolve the matter with both Word Aflame Ministries and Hillcrest Congregational Church, who owns the site at 2000 West Road.  We have offered both Word Aflame Ministries and Hillcrest Congregational Church a special outdoor event permit, so the organizations could have assurances that they could continue with worship services in an outdoor setting, with appropriate limits on noise. In conjunction with this permit and to expedite a resolution, all previous fines and citations related to noise violations were dismissed and the city again demanded that all future services adhere to noise ordinances.

The city is not currently asking the organization to cease any of its activities. However, all members of the community, including Word Aflame Ministries, must continue to maintain appropriate noise levels.

The city is committed to maintaining tranquility in our community by encouraging a collaborative path forward to balance the concerns of both Word Aflame Ministries and neighboring residents.

 

Additional Details:

What is the issue?

Word Aflame Ministries has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, its City Manager and a La Habra Heights resident, alleging the constitutional rights of the church and its leaders have been violated. In reality, the city has been in communication with the church regarding ongoing noise complaints and violations and has made affirmative efforts to enable continuation of outdoor church services during this time.

Is Word Aflame Ministries currently allowed to continue their outdoor worship services and other activities?

Yes. In fact, the city offered both Hillcrest Congregational Church and Word Aflame Ministries a special outdoor event permit, so the organizations could have assurances that they could continue worship services in an outdoor setting until indoor services are once again feasible. Hillcrest Congregational Church has accepted the terms of the permit. The city supports every individual or organization’s ability to worship.

Did the city fine or cite the ministry?

Following a number of resident complaints regarding noise from the Word Aflame Ministries’ outdoor services, the city issued a warning letter, then citations and fines to Word Aflame Ministries related to violations of the city’s noise ordinance.

To encourage a collaborative path forward and in an effort to more expeditiously meet the concerns of both Word Aflame Ministries and the neighboring residents, we dismissed those fines and citations prior to the filing of the lawsuit, and offered a special outdoor public event permit to allow outdoor services and other activities to take place, as long as the activities comply with the city’s established noise limits for residential areas. 

What are the next steps?

The city is not currently asking the organization to cease its activities. However, the city continues to ask that the organization maintain appropriate noise levels. Regarding the lawsuit, we cannot provide any additional details on pending legal matters, but hope we can find an amicable path forward that balances the concerns of both Word Aflame Ministries and the neighboring residents.

 

 

 

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