Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries (HIM,) under the leadership of Pastor Che Ahn, has initiated a federal civil complaint against Governor Newsom’s latest restrictions which have been specifically aimed at criminalizing in-person worship (both in and outside of private citizens’ homes,) as well as criminalizing chanting and singing during such worshipful service.
It is the goal of Harvest Rock Church to protect the first amendment constitutional rights of the church and all people, while taking a specific stand against the misclassification of the worship of God as non-essential during this time of national unrest, economic strife, and physical ailment.
From early March of this year, Harvest Rock Church and the HIM network strictly adhered to the original state guidelines, first closing doors for several months and later utilizing above-standard safety protocols during in-person service. The church, recognizing congregants as a unified family rather than ‘customers’ or ‘clients’ of those businesses who have been deemed “essential,” has maintained throughout the last six months the importance of keeping congregants and the community safe. Safety, which was the original publicized goal of government mandates in California, has always been both the goal and the supportive action of Harvest Rock Church and the HIM network.
Recently in California, however; state leaders have consistently argued for and encouraged protestors of social justice initiatives to both congregate and chant, often while using slogans that are degrading, defamatory, and sometimes even violent. “Now is the time for courage. Now is the time for your voice to be brought to the forefront….” stated Governor Newsom, “Protesters have the right not to be harassed. Protesters have the right to protest…”
The Governor neither reminded protestors of current orders in place affecting citizens of California, nor diligently addressed protestors regarding the necessity to social distance while thousands gathered. Soon thereafter, Governor Newsom enacted the latest order which criminalizes the worship of God, both in the house of God and in private residences, in addition to criminalizing singing, chanting, and other means of praise. This egregious wrong and set of double standards prompted Pastor Che, Harvest Rock Church, and Harvest International Ministry to advocate for first amendment rights and the equal treatment of all citizens, by initiating this federal complaint.
Pastor Che Ahn said it best himself, “The church has been essential for 2000 years.” The church has forever been, and will continue to be, a place of healing for the people – a place of salvation, strength, love, guidance and the ultimate unity. Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries stands against all injustice and division, targeted segregation of civil liberties amongst citizens, and the injustice in deeming God, and the praise of God, as both non-essential and now criminal in the State of California.
“Why are you suing? The Bible says to pray and honor those in leadership”
One of America’s founding fathers, John Adams, said, “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.” Harvest Rock Church seeks to protect the rights of people to worship freely and safely.
We see a biblical precedent in the way the apostle Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to (1) request due process after he was beaten and jailed, and (2) to appeal to Caesar, which is how he arrived in Rome where he continued to share the Gospel. The Bible specifically speaks about not suing Christian brothers and sisters when the dispute can be resolved internally in the church. However, there is no prohibition to using your civil rights when the Gospel is at stake. In fact, when Peter was told not to preach in the name of Jesus in order to be released from jail, he said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Moreover, the state does not have jurisdiction over the church. In the Old Testament, the king did not have jurisdiction over the priests and the Temple, and the priests did not have jurisdiction over the king. Jesus also speaks of these two jurisdictions when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God the things that belong to God” (Matthew 22:21).
“Why are you meeting when you have online service? You can worship God from anywhere.”
In the past, we have met both inside and outside a church building. The great heat of Southern California, often reaching into the 80s and 90s on Sunday mornings, is a significant deterrent from meeting outside. It is our best intention to protect our right to meet anywhere, which certainly includes meeting inside the house of God.
We have met inside the Ambassador Auditorium for the last four weeks, with not one case of reported COVID-19. Harvest Rock Church protects our community and family, both in health and in liberty.
Scripture also admonishes the church to intentionally meet in-person. The Bible states that we should not forsake the assembling together of ourselves, as is the habit of some people (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus also said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). And the Bible frequently talks about singing our praises to the Lord (Colossians 3:16). Additionally, the Bible speaks of the laying on of hands to anoint people and to heal the sick. There are many people who are hurting and suffering in our community, and it is important for Harvest Rock Church to meet together in-person in order to minister to them.
“You are putting your congregation members at risk. You are being irresponsible as a church.”
In-person services have always been, and continue to be, entirely voluntary. We are here to serve those members of our community whose needs include worshiping in the house of God. The option to attend church in the house of God is a sacred right that we intend to protect for both our family and friends. Indeed, assembling together is a biblical command (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We are providing people an option to continue watching our services online, and for those without symptoms or health risks, we are also providing the option to meet in-person. Harvest Rock Church loves and values our people and our community.
By contrast, frequent visits to grocery and retail stores present equal or greater risks than that of a weekly church service. While we will continue to take precautions to protect our church family, we will not live in fear. (link to safety measures)
“The church is meeting for financial gain because giving is down”
Due to COVID-19, we are not holding collections during any in-person services. Indeed, our decision to meet in-person has nothing to do with finances. It is the best intention of Harvest Rock Church to tangibly serve the members of our community by meeting in-person.
“What makes the church essential, and exempt from the law?”
Houses of worship have been essential to societies for thousands of years, and now it is more essential than ever to help hurting people. Houses of worship, while essential, are not exempt from the law. In fact, no one is exempt from the law, which is why it is so important to defend the Constitution of the United States and our unalienable rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution provides special protection to the church through the Free Exercise of Religious Clause and the Establishment Clause.
Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled that the state has no authority to force anyone from attending church: “Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church… Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will.” [Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Twp., 330 U.S. 1, 15 (1947) (emphasis added)]
“Explain demonic forces shutting down church in America.”
The USA was founded by a group of people who were fleeing religious persecution in England. Our Constitution’s First Amendment provides for the unalienable right to worship: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
It is very difficult to justify the notion that suddenly in 2020 — amid high global tensions, a health crisis, and a social justice movement where thousands are consistently encouraged to meet and chant in-person — that the church would be specifically targeted and criminalized for meeting in-person. The shutting down of churches in America is an egregious and immoral movement, which is being spurred on by leaders choosing to purposely ignore the oaths that they have sworn to uphold. This movement is concerning and needs to be met with lawful and moral correction.
How Do We Financially Support This Effort?
Thank you for your heartfelt desire to support Pastor Ché, Harvest International Ministry and Harvest Rock Church in their stand for Freedom to Worship our Lord, Jesus Christ. The direct lawsuit costs are being handled pro bono by Liberty Counsel, though there are indirect costs being absorbed by Harvest International Ministry and Harvest Rock Church. If you feel you’d like to contribute to any of these organizations, here are the links you can use to give…
Donating to Harvest International Ministry:
Donating to Harvest Rock Church:
Donating to Liberty Counsel: