ICC Note: Churches in Lake Worth, Florida are facing new restrictions as they have recently been ordered to obtain a business license in order to operate. City officials went further to dispatch a disguised code enforcement officer in order to gather information on a church that met in a coffee shop. Mat Staver, founder of the religious freedom legal firm Liberty Counsel, has called upon city officials to overturn the business license order as soon as possible.
By Todd Starnes
03/05/2015 United States (Fox News) – A government crackdown on churches has Christians in Lake Worth, Fla., wondering if they live in the United States or the former Soviet Union.
Churches in Lake Worth, population 36,000, have been ordered to acquire a business license. As if the church has to get the government’s permission to preach and pray?
But wait. It gets worse, folks.
City officials were so concerned about one congregation that they dispatched a code enforcement officer cloaked in a hoodie to spy on a Southern Baptist church that was meeting in a coffee house.
Folks, it’s like the plot of a Cold War spy novel.
“Government employees are public servants and prohibited by the Constitution from inhibiting religious freedom,” said Mat Staver, founder of the religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel. “That is a far cry from sneaking around and into a church and acting like KGB agents.”
Staver is calling on city leaders to immediately rescind the business license mandate on churches. He is also representing Common Ground Church, the congregation that was targeted by the city’s investigator.
The church owns and operates a coffee house in downtown Lake Worth. For the past three months, it has used the coffee house for a weekly worship service. Prior to that the congregation rented space in other buildings in the community.
Pastor Mike Olive told me there had not been any problems until early last month, when he had an encounter with Andy Amoroso, a city commissioner.
“After we opened up the coffee bar and started doing services, I heard that he told people we were anti-gay,” Olive said. “So I went to his shop to ask him about that.”
I reached out to Amoroso on Wednesday but he did not return my telephone calls.