What an awesome funeral for my son-in-law, Paul! Hundreds came to share what his life and testimony ment to them. I flew in Sunday morning after a great Sat. night meeting at Oak Grove High School in MO. I shared a quick history history of how my daughter and Paul met, then they played an incredible video of Paul’s life put together by my son Eric. Paul’s dad brought the message. That must be the hardest thing for a man to do! The entire service is soon to be available for those who are interested. There is a fund in Paul’s name to help people adopt children. If you make a donation in any amount and request the funeral service we will send it to you.
The county battle is still going strong. We never wanted this battle. We just want to serve God and be left alone. There is a long history of conflict between God’s people and secular authority over the Lordship of Jesus. It seems it will never end. If you would like to help, the county commissioners can use lots of “encouragement” to solve this problem that they created.
Below is our proposed solution. Please any or all of this as you contact the commissioners. www.co.escambia.fl.us/
April 3, 2006
For those following the 5 year conflict between Escambia County and the Church we thought it would be good to spell out, What does Dinosaur Adventure Land (DAL) want from the county and who can give it to them?
For nearly 2000 years it has been the sincerely held religious conviction of Christians that Jesus, not Caesar, is the head of the church. Colossians 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Since Jesus founded it, the Lord’s church has also attempted to stay separate from entanglement with government. This has led to great conflict and persecution of the Church by those who think Caesar is lord over all. See Foxes Book of Martyrs. Conflicts between the Church and government officials are recorded in 21 out of 28 chapters in the book of Acts. Most of the early settlers of this county fled here in order to have religious freedom from the state controlled churches in Europe. The founding fathers made the “separation of church and state” doctrine very clear in scores of their writings over 230 years ago. They taught that the state has no jurisdiction over the Lord’s church.
In addition to the clear commands of God’s Word and Article 1 of the US Constitution, Florida Statue Chapter 761, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998 (RFRA) clearly tells us that “The government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” 761.03 “”Exercise of religion” means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by a religious belief,” 761.02 (see below)
The law says a Church can act or not act based on our religious convictions. In the fall of 2000 we built a small metal building to hold ministry services in and to teach and train people about the biblical account of creation. Our pastor did not ask the county for “permission” to build on the Lord’s property as this would be an admission that the Church is subject to Caesar.
On March 29, 2001 two Escambia County building inspectors came unannounced and uninvited and trespassed on the clearly marked Church property to issue a citation. Soon thereafter the county commissioners voted to fund the legal battle that ensued and continues today. The county has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars so far and still, no end is in sight.
We understand that in the last 100 years many churches have become “incorporated” as 501 c-3 organizations, which makes them creatures of the state, and therefore subject to permits. Our ministry is not one of those and this is the distinction many people in the county are missing.
Millions of Christians in the early centuries faced torture and death rather than submit the Lord’s church to Caesar. These martyrs were not lawless people looking to be defiant of God ordained governments and neither are we. We answer to a much higher authority, that of the Creator of the universe.
We pay to have our buildings engineered and inspected by professionals to insure the safety of those we minister to. We understand the importance of this. We are even willing to pay the county inspectors to come inspect them. Our buildings are safe in all aspects that the county may have concerns over. Obviously there are hundreds of buildings standing in the county today that did not get Escambia County’s permits, such as those on the Navy base, State of Florida lands or those buildings built before the inspections department was created in the 70’s.
We are a peace loving people who simply wish to serve the Lord. We have sincerely held religious convictions against the church being taxed (permit fees) as well as asking others for permission to do what God has called us to do. Once jurisdiction is granted in one area, where does it stop? Those who live under communist control know that it does not! The Amish across the country, including Florida, object to (and do not obtain) building permits for similar religious reasons and Disneyland in Florida never gets county permits. See www.state.fl.us/rcid/.
Escambia County Commissioners have taken an oath to uphold the constitution where this principle of separation is enshrined in the first amendment. We feel sure that they all know the value of having churches and ministries training people in our county to love and obey the Lord. Surely this is much cheaper that the jail system we all support for those who do not obey the Lord’s commands. Ministries like ours are an asset to the county.
We know that our little ministry on 6 acres is not of great concern to some but we think God cares and is watching closely. The current commission has the power to resolve this ongoing conflict today as well as prevent future problems and expenses for both our ministry and this county.
The only people who stand to gain from prolonging this conflict are the attorneys who get paid by the hour and love this stuff! Our ministry fears that this struggle (which may have to go all the way to the Supreme Court) is sure to bring much negative publicity for our county. We would love to see this resolved peacefully so we can devote more time to preaching God’s Word. All our ministry wants to do is serve the Lord and influence others to do the same. We want to live peaceably with all men as commanded by the Lord and be a blessing to this community.
The solution is quite simple as we see it. It seems to us that the prudent thing for this commission to do is to vote to incorporate RFRA into the local building codes and end the conflict now.
This board of commissioners needs to require their inspectors to abide by existing Florida law (RFRA) or vote to incorporate the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act into the building code of Escambia County as other counties in Florida are doing even now. This action would resolve this current dispute with the Church ministry at 29 Cummings Road as well as prevent future challenges, which are sure to come as RFRA becomes more well known.
We feel the section below or something similar, would help the county building code incorporate RFRA. (This was proposed to the commission several years ago with no reaction. Since it is now election year they may be listening better.)
Statement of Finding by the Escambia County Commission, Escambia
The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners acknowledges the lawful existence of, and our intention to comply with the Florida Statue Chapter 761, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998 (RFRA). We further find that the county can be spared countless legal challenges to its building, zoning and development regulations by taking the prudent action of incorporating RFRA into our own county building code and related ordinances. We recognize that by statute RFRA already applies to the FLORIDA BUILDING CODE and that our action makes clear our desire to comply with RFRA/Florida Statute Chapter 761.
County Ordinance Sec. ## – ##. Compliance with Chapter 761.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
“Enforcement of this ordinance will be in strict compliance with the provisions of Florida Statue Chapter 761, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998 (RFRA). The Building Department, Code Enforcement Department, County Administrator, and any other such county officials or departments as may regulate, enforce, and/or administer the provisions of the unified FLORIDA BUILDING CODE ACT OF 1998 (in effect statewide March 1, 2002), are hereby authorized and directed to adhere to the provisions of Chapter 761.
Department administrators are to direct their staff to use the least restrictive means available to satisfy any compelling governmental interest in furtherance of the county’s health, safety and welfare objectives as set forth in this ordinance. Such authority includes making such accommodations as may reasonably be necessary, (including waiving technical requirements of the ordinance), to comply with the RFRA so long as any accommodation does not compromise any compelling interest in protecting health, safety and welfare the county may have.”
After voting the above ordinance into law we would like this board and/or the building department to do the following:
- Notify Judge Michael Allen that our ministry has met the requirements of the law and a conflict no longer exists and his order to close the buildings should be withdrawn and our bond returned.
- Notify the utility companies that they should hook up our utilities.
- Vote to pay some of the costs we have incurred over the last five years defending our ministry in court.
- Come visit our unique ministry and bring your families.
FLORIDA RELIGIOUS FREEDOM (RFRA)
761.01 Short title.
761.03 Free exercise of religion protected.
761.04 Attorney’s fees and costs.
761.05 Applicability; construction.
761.01 Short title.–This act may be cited as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998.”
761.02 Definitions.–As used in this act:
(1) “Government” or “state” includes any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, or official or other person acting under color of law of the state, a county, special district, municipality, or any other subdivision of the state.
(2) “Demonstrates” means to meet the burden of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.
(3) “Exercise of religion” means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
761.03 Free exercise of religion protected.–
(1) The government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(a) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(b) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
(2) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief.
761.04 Attorney’s fees and costs.–The prevailing plaintiff in any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of this act is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to be paid by the government.
761.05 Applicability; construction.–
(1) This act applies to all state law, and the implementation of that law, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the enactment of this act.
(2) State law adopted after the date of the enactment of this act is subject to this act unless such law explicitly excludes such application by reference to this act.
(3) Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize the government to burden any religious belief.
(4) Nothing in this act shall be construed to circumvent the provisions of chapter 893.
(5) Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of s.3, Art. I of the State Constitution prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion.
(6) Nothing in this act shall create any rights by an employee against an employer if the employer is not a governmental agency.
(7) Nothing in this act shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address that portion of s. 3, Art. I of the State Constitution and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States respecting the establishment of religion. This act shall not be construed to permit any practice prohibited by those provisions.
The Mission of the building inspections department:
“To safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of Escambia County residents, businesses, and visitors by conducting plan checking and inspection services to ensure the integrity of all new structures and major improvements to existing structures built in the unincorporated area of the County, to ensure all residential and commercial construction is in compliance with State and local building requirements, and to facilitate completion of new development applications and provide for the issuance of building permits within the unincorporated area of the County.”
Note: A Church ministry is not a “residence” nor “commercial” nor a “business.” The Church ministry at 29 Cummings has consistently challenged the jurisdiction of the inspections department and has yet to receive a response to this challenge. When challenged, jurisdiction must first be established. The county has never done this.
The inspectors probably honestly feel bound by the law to close our ministry. The commissioners probably feel the same way. This proposed solution solves it for everyone. Please write, email and call them often to ask them to vote this in soon. They meet the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at 4:30 for a public forum. Please come show your support. If you write or call them and get any response, good or bad, please send it to our ministry for our files.