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San Gabriel Valley Digest

Monrovia : Suits Filed in Church Arrest

March 16, 1989

A Baptist minister and a group of 24 of his parishioners have filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the city for alleged violations of their freedom of religion, after police entered the Community Baptist Church on Dec. 18 and arrested the Rev. Obie Fox as he was delivering a sermon.

The police, reportedly responding to complaints by church leaders about Fox's handling of church finances, pulled the minister from the pulpit, handcuffed and arrested him. Fox is seeking $15 million in damages, and 24 parishioners are seeking $2 million apiece.

Pasadena attorney Stephen Wolfson, who is representing Fox and the parishioners, said that during the incident, church members were evicted from the church and others were prevented from entering.

"They were all really shook up about what happened," Wolfson said. "They said to me, 'The most sacred place is your church.' " City Manager Jim Starbird said that an initial review of the incident had indicated that the police, who had been summoned by church deacons to remove Fox, had acted appropriately. "There was a significant split in the church, a big dispute, and we got caught in the middle," Starbird said.

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