Landlord changes church locks to stop pastor from defying coronavirus lockdown

A California church’s landlord changed the locks to prevent its controversial pastor from defying a coronavirus shutdown, according to reports.

Pastor Jon Duncan had vowed to continue preaching at Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi, telling Fox 40 the services were “protected by the First Amendment and should be considered essential.”

But he was met by several police officers when he arrived on Palm Sunday — and was unable to enter the completely shuttered church, the Los Angeles Times said.

The building’s owner, the nearby Bethel Open Bible Church, had “changed the locks on the doors in response” to his threats to defy coronavirus restrictions, Lodi Police Lt. Michael Manetti told the paper.

The officer said that during a “fairly cordial” discussion with the pastor they also turned away more than a dozen cars that tried to pull in for Sunday service on a day even Pope Francis livestreamed Mass behind closed doors.

“We understand people’s desire to practice their faith,” Manetti told the L.A. paper. “It’s for everyone’s welfare. We have to protect the public.”

Duncan had no idea that the locks had been changed when he arrived for mass, his attorney, Dean Broyles, told the L.A. Times.

“The landlord did not inform my client that they were going to lock them out of the premises,” Broyles said.

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