VICTORVILLE, Calif. --- Days after signing a contract for a third year at the cinema that it had been leasing, Loveland Church received a letter from its landlord that the agreement was terminated. Dated December 30th, the letter informed the Church that January 7th would be its last day. The letter stated that the City of Victorville had determined that its zoning does not allow for a house of worship on movie theatre premises. Loveland has been renting two auditoriums for Sunday worship for two years from National Cinemark which has scores of these types of agreements with churches. Hundreds of churches in California and throughout the country rent out cinemas for Sunday morning use, then vacate the premises before noon when the theatres begin their regular schedule of showing films.
Loveland is known for its active work to help the homeless. Indeed, the Church started and funds another church, Loveland Santa Monica, which has built a ministry geared specifically to the homeless. Ironically Loveland has now found itself being forced out into the street by the City. The poetic injustice is accentuated by the timing of the ouster. A complaint to Victorville's code enforcement about the use of the theatre by Loveland was apparently received shortly after Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at the Church, in which he focused his remarks on the plight of those who find themselves without a home.
City officials agreed to give the Church a 30 day extension after receiving a request from an attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute for more time. Loveland will use the additional time to not only continue its ministry, but also to seek redress from the City Council, asking them to amend the ordinance. "As a legal matter, the difference between assembly for purposes of viewing a film and attending a church service are the same," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. "Federal law does not permit these types of distinctions," Dacus continued.
"We look forward to the opportunity to present the relevant law to the Council and are optimistic that the elected officials will change the ordinance to bring it into compliance with legal requirements," stated Kevin Snider, chief counsel for PJI.