State Watch

Church defying shutdown order in California received PPP loan of at least $350,000

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A church that is defying California’s most recent shutdown order received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in April amounting to at least $350,000.

Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin, Calif., applied for a federal PPP loan and received between $350,000 and $1 million, federal data released in July shows, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Destiny Christian Church’s pastor, Greg Fairrington, said the church would stay open despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) order for places of worship to shut down indoor activities in counties with rising coronavirus cases. 

The Department of Treasury and the Small Business Administration released data on which businesses received federal PPP loans — which were part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in March and intended for small businesses to keep staff employed — of more than $150,000, after media outlets sued to obtain the information. 

The database shows Destiny Christian Church, a nonprofit in Placer County, received its loans five days after the first round of loans from the CARES Act became available. The PPP was used to continue paying 140 employees of the church, according to the federal data. 

Destiny Christian Church was not the only religious institution to receive a PPP loan and did not receive the most among religious groups. Capital Christian Center obtained $1 million to $2 million in loans to keep 228 jobs and Bayside Covenant received between $2 million and $5 million to save 375 jobs.

Hundreds attended indoor and outdoor services at the church on Sunday, after Fairrington announced the church would remain open, according to The Sacramento Bee.  

“If you think the government is going to be benevolent to the church,” Fairrington said during the service Sunday, “if you believe that, you just haven’t studied history, because once your rights are taken from you, they’re never giving them back.”

A church spokesperson emailed The Sacramento Bee a statement from Fairrington, saying the decision to “apply for a federal assistance program has no relevance to Destiny‘s decision to remain open in light of a state order.”

“The reason Destiny applied for PPP was the same as the other 700,000 businesses did in the United States, and that was to protect our employees, who provide critical care and support to the community,” he said

“The Sacramento Bee’s pursuit of this article, and the reality that it’s written 3 divisive stories in less than 10 days, suggests that it’s desired outcome is to vilify a religious establishment that only seeks to do good in its region,” he added. 

The church said it will follow social distancing and sanitation practices as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In its guidance, the CDC says churches should follow all state and local restrictions. 

Rocklin city spokesperson Michael Young told The Sacramento Bee last week that the city and church officials were “working toward a solution where their services can be held and adhere” to state rules.

Several California churches have taken Newsom’s orders involving churches to court, arguing they violate congregations’ First Amendment right to religious freedom, but the churches have not been successful in blocking the order so far. 

California is one of several states struggling to reign in a coronavirus outbreak. The state has seen 391,538 cases of COVID-19 and 7,694 deaths, according to state data.

In response to the rising numbers, Newsom ordered bars and indoor operations at several businesses to shut down statewide. Fitness centers, places of worship, nonessential businesses, personal care services, hair salons, barbershops and malls were instructed to close in a select 30 counties, including Placer County.

Tags California church Coronavirus coronavirus shutdowns Executive Order Gavin Newsom Pandemic Paycheck Protection Program ppp PPP loan Religion Rocklin

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