CHURCH GOT PPP LOAN: Church defying shutdown order got Paycheck Protection Program loan of at least $350,000 [#DestinyChristianChurch #PPPLoan] 07/20
Hundreds showed up to Destiny Christian Church in Rocklin for indoor and outdoor services Sunday, many of them cheering as Pastor Greg Fairrington preached passionately on the subject of government restricting churches’ rights.
That topic emerged as central in Pastor Greg Fairrington’s morning sermons after he declared a week ago that his south Placer County church would keep its doors open despite California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest shutdown order.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced July 13, 2020 that, among other business closures and restrictions, places of worship in most counties statewide must immediately stop indoor activities due to the surging coronavirus pandemic.
“If you think the government is going to be benevolent to the church, if you believe that, you just haven’t studied history, because once your rights are taken from you, they’re never giving them back.”
– Pastor Greg Fairrington in Sunday’s sermon
Despite those harsh words about government, Pastor Greg Fairrington’s church applied for — and promptly received — a loan worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to possibly $1 million, through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, records show.
After media organizations sued to make the information available to the public, the U.S. Treasury Department and Small Business Administration earlier this month released a list of hundreds of thousands of businesses, nonprofits and other entities that received loans worth at least $150,000 through PPP.
Ranges of dollar figures, rather than exact amounts, are shown in the database.
Destiny Christian, a nonprofit, appears among the hundreds of thousands of nationwide recipients listed, with a loan ranging from $350,000 to $1 million awarded April 8, 2020.
That’s 5 days after the start of the first round of the loan program, which launched as part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The stimulus came a few weeks after the deadly, rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic began forcing states to implement unprecedented economic shutdowns.
California was the first to impose a stay-at-home order, which was loosened from mid-May to mid-June and then re-tightened in recent weeks as the public health crisis resurges.
The loans are appealing to businesses and nonprofits not just for their 1% interest rate, but because they are forgivable under certain circumstances, particularly if the organizations can show they used substantial amounts of the money to retain employees on their payroll.
Destiny Christian’s entry in the PPP database shows it requested the loan to continue payroll for 140 employees.
It was not the only local religious organization to receive a PPP loan, nor was its loan the largest.
Capital Christian Center, one of Sacramento’s largest churches with thousands of congregants, received one ranging from $1 million to $2 million to retain 228 jobs.
Bayside Covenant, which operates 9 church campuses including 3 in Placer County and 4 others within Sacramento and Yolo counties, got a loan for between $2 million and $5 million to retain 375 jobs, the SBA figures show.
A spokesperson for Destiny Christian emailed the following statement provided by Pastor Greg Fairrington:
“Destiny‘s decision to apply for a federal assistance program has no relevance to Destiny‘s decision to remain open in light of a state order. The reason Destiny applied for PPP was the same as the other 700,000 businesses did in the United States, and that was to protect our employees, who provide critical care and support to the community.
“The Sacramento Bee’s pursuit of this article, and the reality that it’s written 3 divisive stories in less than 10 days, suggests that it’s (sic) desired outcome is to vilify a religious establishment that only seeks to do good in its region.”
The statement did not address the publication’s questions regarding the pandemic’s specific financial impact on Destiny Christian Church or the exact value of the loan.
Gov’t should not be in the business of picking winners or losers. Supermarkets over Salons? Protests over Churches?
— Greg Fairrington (@gregfairrington) July 17, 2020
All told, more than 800 businesses and organizations based in the Sacramento area received economic relief via PPP loans.
But as Destiny, Bayside, Capital Christian and other churches and local businesses successfully pursued those loans, so-called mom-and-pop shops in the Sacramento area reportedly struggled to do the same, some saying they were unable to get their hands on a share even as they applied through the SBA on the first day possible.
“So many people grabbed so much, and now there’s none left for all the people that need it.”
– Nick Dedier, chef and co-owner of Milestone Restaurant & Cocktail Bar in El Dorado Hills
Meanwhile, big chains with more than 100 locations spanning the U.S., including Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, received loans of up to $10 million.
The PPP loan program has proved controversial, especially following the July disclosure of some of its recipients.
PlumpJack Management Group LLC, a winery and hospitality company that Newsom founded, borrowed between $150,000 and $300,000.
A Rancho Cordova card room got a loan in the same range, even though it had been closed down since early January by the state Department of Justice for regulatory violations.
Writing for Christianity Today in mid-April, Jon Costas, a Republican and former mayor in Indiana, said churches should be wary of rushing to apply for PPP loans.
“What may be an easy call for a small business could be the wrong decision for a church. Churches are not businesses and should approach this matter from a much different perspective.”
– Jon Costas
The program reopened to applicants, with a deadline extended to Aug. 8, 2020 for more PPP loans.
Pastor Greg Fairrington spoke at prior July sermons of unfair treatment of churches, plus other businesses deemed nonessential, by the government during the ongoing pandemic.
Dressed in jeans, an open shirt and a blue plaid blazer this past Sunday, Pastor Greg Fairrington called the previous week “crazy with a capital ‘K’” before deriding government for “taking away our rights.”
Pastor Greg Fairrington continued, saying God was “using Destiny as a hub” to fight back against persecution and against the government for the right to worship freely.
The decision to stay open put Pastor Greg Fairrington and his large church in local and national headlines last week.
Pastor Greg Fairrington, who has floated the idea of running for governor himself, takes issue primarily with the Gov. Gavin Newsom administration and state government.
In a news release posted to its website last week, Destiny Christian applauded President Donald Trump for calling upon governors in late May to allow churches to reopen.
And as it announced it would keep its doors open despite Placer County being one of now almost 3 dozen California counties in which Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered indoor services suspended, the church said it would still be adhering to social distancing and sanitation practices in accordance with CDC guidelines for worship.
However, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does list guidelines for place of worship, multiple sections of those guidelines emphasize that churches should follow all state and local health regulations.
The main contention from Destiny and other churches statewide is that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order violates the First Amendment by restricting religious freedom.
Court battles took place prior to churches being gradually allowed to reopen in late May and are starting to emerge once again, but none who have sued Gov. Gavin Newsom so far have been successful.
U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez wrote in an order rejecting one request that stay-at-home orders “are permissible exercises of emergency police powers, especially given the extraordinary public health emergency facing the state” and thus not unconstitutional.
The coronavirus has killed close to 7,700 people across California, including 11 in Placer County and nearly 100 in Sacramento County, according to the state and local health departments.
Placer County officials, when reached for comment after Destiny Christian announced its plan to stay open, deferred questions to the city of Rocklin.
Rocklin city spokesman Michael Young said the city had reached out to the church and was “working toward a solution where their services can be held and adhere” to state guidelines, but that he did not have many other details.
“Part of our call … is to push the limits. I want to unleash believers all over the region.”
– Pastor Greg Fairrington in Sunday’s sermon
California church defying shutdown order got PPP loan of at least $350,000 in April:
The Sacramento Bee
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