Walnut church holds outdoor family fair despite COVID-19, reported threats from county officials

A Walnut church threw caution to the wind Saturday, holding a family fair despite what it says were threats from county health officials to shut the event down over COVID-19 concerns.
WALNUT, Calif. (KABC) -- A Walnut church threw caution to the wind Saturday, holding a family fair despite what it says were threats from county health officials to shut the event down over COVID-19 concerns.

On a Mission Church's Walnut Family Fair 2020 includes a petting zoo, a blessing of the animals, a puppet show, food and other entertainment.

Organizers say they have received phone messages from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health telling them that large in-person gatherings are not permitted under current public health orders and they could be subject to fines and even arrests if they proceed. But the church says the county has no business interfering with an outdoor event on private property where all safety protocols were observed.

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Lawyers representing the church say it's being discriminated against and targeted simply because it is a religious institution.

An L.A. County health inspector showed up at the event but did not discipline anyone.

A watch commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Walnut station told City News Service on Saturday morning that he was not aware of any attempt to shut down the event. Deputies were seen on hand at the fair.

Pastor Carlos Robles said the Family Fair would be held entirely outdoors, and will observe social distancing and other safety protocols. He added that church leaders feel they are well within their constitutional rights.

"It's a church event on private property. This will be a community service talking about Christian education, home schooling,'' Robles told CNS. "... We'll be exercising our First Amendment rights, and obeying (public health guidelines) to the best of our ability.''

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A Newbury Park church was fined $3,000 and, along with its pastor, was held in contempt of court Friday for refusing to stop holding indoor church services despite a temporary restraining order and public health orders prohibiting them.



The pastor said an attempt to prohibit the church event "seems puzzling'' in light of large swap meets in Orange County'' and other events drawing large crowds, including political demonstrations such as last weekend's march in support of Armenia that drew thousands of people to the streets of Los Angeles.

"The so-called peaceful protesting is going on, but it's often not accompanied by mask-wearing or social distancing, and the cities and counties don't seem too concerned about that,'' he said. "We feel that we are obeying the ordinances.''

Robles added that Walnut City Council members were also expected to attend the fair.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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