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ECPAC and the Rock Church: A Conflict of the First Amendment

Reporting San Diego (2014-09-05) Nadin Abbott

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More Info: Church State Separation, Rock Church Ecpac Takeover, Save ECPAC

Update: You can read the letter submitted to the City here.

Sept. 5, 2014 (El Cajon) The El Cajon City Council ordered City Manager Douglas Williford to enter into exclusive negotiations with the Rock Church on August 12. This is about the future of the East County Performing Arts Center. He is to report back in 90 days. Here is where the problems lie.

According to Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight Committee this is fraught with legal issues. While he said, for the moment they do not intend to sue, they don’t want to sue, but they are prepared to do such.


The issue is not exclusively the use of the ECPAC by the Rock Church. It is about issues of Church and State. After all, a church can use the ECPAC in a limited capacity.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

What Lutz contends, among other issues, is that the ECPAC is in a civic plaza, and part of a government complex. The letter given to the city reads: “The ECPAC facility is on city property and in the government superblock. The main doors of ECPAC, City Hall, and the Council Chambers, all open to the common courtyard.”

He also argues that this is the only facility of this type in the East County, and that the taking over of the facility by the Rock Church, would create not just a traffic issue, but also preference of one faith over all others. Moreover, the use of the facility, would pre-empt it from being used by any other group for a proper theater use. This is because of the number of days and what days the church will have access to the theater.

Lutz further argues that a proper theater manager should be hired, which is a step Williford at one point suggested, before doing anything else. Moreover, the whole effort has been carried out behind closed doors, which in a previous interview Lutz referred as a violation of the Brown Act.

Lutz says that leasing of the theater long term (five year lease with an option to renew), to a religious is unprecedented in California. Among others, Lutz cites the Lemon Test, which is named after Lemon v. Kurtzman. According to Lutz, this fails it, since “it results in excessive government entanglement.”

The city says that this is the best contract they could find. They also say that this will bring a lot of business downtown, and this is the only way to save ECPAC.

According to Fox Five the church said in a statement that: “The City of El Cajon assured us that this agreement is perfectly legal, and we at the Rock Church are excited for this new opportunity to serve the people of East County.”

David Secord said during the event that if the discussion was about renting the theater to a Mosque, then those who see no issue with it right now, would not be singing the same tune. We include the video of this.

Twitter: @nadinbrzezinski

Facebook: Reporting San Diego


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Title ECPAC and the Rock Church: A Conflict of the First Amendment
Publisher Reporting San Diego
Author Nadin Abbott
Pub Date 2014-09-05
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Keywords Church State Separation, Rock Church Ecpac Takeover, Save ECPAC
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Topic revision: r1 - 16 Sep 2014, RaymondLutz
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