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Pastor vows to continue church services amid COVID-19 emergency. Landlord makes sure that won’t happen, changes building’s locks and calls police.

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A California landlord has changed the locks on his church building after its pastor vowed to continue church services amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

What are the details?

The Lodi, California, pastor insisted that he and his congregation would continue to meet on a weekly basis despite the state's strict stay-at-home order handed down by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

On Sunday, however, Pastor Jon Duncan of Cross Culture Christian Center said that when he arrived at the church, the locks had been changed and there was a police presence waiting for any parishioners who tried to defy the state order by entering the building.

Duncan said, "We were advised that the building has been closed down to us, that the locks have been changed."

Lodi Police Lt. Michael Manetti added that the church's landlord changed the locks after receiving a warning from San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Maggie Park.

"We understand people's desire to practice their faith," he said. "But at church, generally people are closer to one another ... shaking hands and singing."

Jeremy Duncan, the pastor's brother, said that he's not happy with the decision to close the church.

"I'm not thrilled in general with the restriction on religious liberties, definitely during what is Christians' most holy week," he said.

Jackie Hero, one of the church's parishioners, added, "I really believe this is something we need to do — to congregate."

What else?

Dean R. Broyles, an attorney retained by Cross Culture Christian Center, said that the church's decision to block worshippers from coming to the building is illegal.

"The landlord did not inform my client that they were going to lock them out of the premises," Broyles said. "They don't have the right to do that unless they go to an eviction procedure, and the governor has a moratorium on evictions right now. ... We view locking them out as a breach of the lease and a violation of the law."

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