Temecula Wine Country California Bans Churches

by: 

CA Staff
Aug 21, 2012
California Wine Country, Wikimedia Commons

Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship ("The Barn") is preparing to file a federal lawsuit against the County of Riverside, CA if the County continues its ban on churches in the Temecula Wine Country. The Wine Country area 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.

Pastor Clark Van Wick met with a few vintners in an attempt to appease them, but was reportedly told, "We don't want your kind out here." The Wine Country land use issue has raised the ire of Christians throughout the County because of the perceived hostility toward Christians in the Wine Country.

According to sources in the area, vintners reportedly point to concerns about spraying for plant pests or disease because of a ban on spraying around schools as part of their reasoning behind keeping churches and schools out of Wine Country.

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.

The Barn received its nickname because the church started meeting in a dilapidated barn in the Wine Country at a time before the ban on churches was instituted. In 1999, the Barn received permission from the County to remodel the barn and build a new church on the site after a hotly contested public hearing process where the same vintners opposed the building of the church.

Shortly after giving the church approval through the public use permit process in 1999, and under apparent pressure from the area vintners, the County quietly passed a new ordinance banning all churches from the Wine Country. The Barn was grandfathered-in as an existing nonconforming use and completed its approved building in 2002. The Barn 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 church 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. The expansion of the facilities is now prohibited.

Concurrently with the church's expansion efforts, the County is holding public hearings on its plan to expand the Wine Country from 7,000 acres to 18,990 acres. The church is asking that the County amend its own ordinance and its own expansion plans so that churches, synagogues, other houses of worship, and private schools be designated as permitted uses.

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. The only existing church, the Barn, is prohibited from expanding. According to church members, the local vintners don't want churches nearby and have influenced the county to zone out churches.

The Barn is represented by Advocates for Faith & Freedom. Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, stated, "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."

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.

Hearing details:
August 22, 2012
9:00 AM
Riverside County Planning Commission Hearing
Temecula City Hall
41000 Main Street
Temecula, CA

Also see:
California Couple Fined for Holding In-Home Bible Studies
http://voices.yahoo.com/california-couple-fined-holding-9156379.html?cat=48