Can churches and wineries coexist? That is the question at stake right now in the face of a Riverside County hearing in Temecula, CA. Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship ("The Barn") is gearing up to file a federal lawsuit against the County of Riverside in the event that the County continues its ban on churches in the Temecula Wine Country, an area that is being expanded from approximately 7,000 acres to over 18,990 acres. A public hearing will occur on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, over the fate of churches in this region. The hearing will position the Wine Country Vintner’s Association against the church congregation and many other Christians from the area.
Trying to be a good neighbor, Pastor Clark Van Wick met with a few vintners in an attempt to appease them, but was told, “We don’t want your kind out here.”
In 1999, the Barn received permission from the County to build a new church in Wine Country after a hotly contested public hearing process where the same vintners opposed the building of the church. However, shortly after this, the County quietly passed a new ordinance banning all churches from the Wine Country. The Barn was grandfathered-in and was the only existing church in the Wine Country at the time. Although the church could still meet in the Wine Country, it would never be able to expand its facilities any further because of the ban that was in place, and no other churches would be able to operate in the Wine Country.
The Barn just recently learned of the ban on churches when it sought to obtain a permit to expand its church facilities and to build a small private country school for grades K-8. Of course, the expansion of the facilities is now prohibited.
Under the current and future zoning ordinances, Wineries are allowed to have giant weddings, concerts and plays, but no new churches can assemble to worship. And the only existing church, the Barn, is prohibited from expanding. Robert Tyler, Advocates’ General Counsel, stated, “Although religious liberty is often exercised in the form of free speech, as in the incident surrounding Chick-fil-A, it is more often exercised in the form of believers assembling together for the common purpose of worshipping God, holding church services, and studying the Bible.” He continued, “We must defend the right to assemble against discriminatory zoning laws and land use regulations or else governmental officials will be able to zone out Christians whenever it is politically expedient.”
Christians in the area have become aware of this situation, and they have taken action! Local churches have submitted over 3,200 letters to the County asking to overturn the ban. For more information on reversing the ban on churches, including links to a television interview and newspaper articles, go to www.WineCountryFreedom.Com.
Hundreds of area Christians and church members are expected to attend the planning commission hearing. As a sign of thanks, the church will serve Chick-fil-A to all those who attend during the lunchtime break. If you can and are in the area, please join us and voice your support of churches in Wine Country!
Hearing details: August 22, 2012 9:00 AM Riverside County Planning Commission Hearing Temecula City Hall 41000 Main Street Temecula, CA