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At Issue Is Separation of Cottonwood and Cypress

July 21, 2002

Re "Cypress Suing to Block Initiative," July 12:

This is despicable behavior by one of our cities. I can't believe that for the years that property was vacant, the city didn't want it. Now that a church [Cottonwood Christian Center] has purchased it, they decided to use eminent domain laws on it.

If they succeed, this is a violation of separation of church and state laws. The whole reason our founding fathers started this country was to keep the government out of church affairs and vice versa. What will the government be able to do next, tell [us] that saying "One nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional? Oh, they did that.

They kicked the name of God out of the public eye and now they are kicking out people who believe in him from their own land. This is an abomination and a threat for all churches and religions. First the Christians, then Muslims, then Hindus, then Buddhists and the list goes on. It starts here, but it will not stop here. What if the Cypress City Council decides your land looks like a good place for a 7-Eleven? Say goodbye.

David Ortiz

La Mirada

*

Re "Petitions May Be for Cottonwood ... or Not," July 7:

On a daily basis I see misrepresentations regarding the Cypress vs. Cottonwood land use issue.

People should investigate their facts a little better before forming their opinions, rather than relying on the propaganda campaign that has been so successfully waged by Cottonwood Christian Center.

This is not a church being seized. This is a piece of vacant land speculatively purchased in spite of prior notice and warnings that it was the prime plot in a specific plan in a redevelopment zone, and could not be used for church purposes without approval of a conditional use permit that was not likely to be granted due to preexisting redevelopment plans.

While anyone can buy land, even convicted felons serving time in prison, the land comes with all the existing benefits and burdens. This organization bought the vacant land in spite of being on notice, presumably confident that they could conjure up enough political pressure to strong-arm their will upon the citizens of Cypress.

Apparently, in light of the L.A. Times' position espoused in its editorials, their plan is working quite well.

Additional facts are as follows:

Cottonwood sells itself as a poor little local church being picked on by a powerful municipality. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is high time that Cottonwood be exposed for what it is: an opulent televangelist organization akin to the Trinity Broadcasting Network minus the glitz and perpetual Christmas lights.

Cypress is not preventing Cottonwood from practicing its religion. In fact, they are encouraging them to continue to do so at their wonderful existing facility in Los Alamitos.

Cottonwood had opportunities to buy acceptable land within the same general area but declined.

Cottonwood claims 400 of its worshippers live in Cypress, a dubious claim. But even if true, this is only about 0.8% of Cypress' population.

It is irrelevant that this happens to be a religious organization. They were warned, they ignored such warnings, and they have forced the city's hands on this issue with their first-strike lawsuits.

Cottonwood has been fairly deceptive during this entire process. They failed to adequately inform their congregation of the speculative nature of the land purchase.

Their Citizens for Property Rights group supposedly gathered many signatures under false pretense.

Cottonwood's "Poor me" act is getting quite old. Pastor Bayless Conley's diatribes at Cypress council meetings would earn five stars at the Tammy Faye Bakker School of Crocodile Tears. Meanwhile, the Rev. Mike Wilson's selective memory when reciting event chronology destroys his credibility.

Finally, Cottonwood's land is not being seized. The Constitution guarantees that property shall not be taken without just compensation. If the eminent domain process is successful, Cottonwood will be paid the current fair market value for this vacant land.

Philip W. Luebben, CPA

Cypress

*

Re "Christian Center Stirs Passion on Both Sides," Letters, June 2:

Regarding the letter from Marlena and Larry Howard of Cypress, I need to let the Howards know how incorrect they are concerning the zoning of the property at the corner of Katella and Walker. The zoning for the property and designated use [is] clearly shown on the redevelopment map of 1990. The map that the residents approved shows "professional offices and hotel." Their characterization that it was "zoned for a shopping center" is patently wrong. Furthermore, I'm sure they were not aware of it, but Cypress had approved an office building on the site shortly before Cottonwood became the owner.

A church was a "permissible use" under that zoning at the time and clearly was stated as such in a letter from the city in 1999. If the facts were disseminated, people wouldn't be as confused as they are.

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