The World Mission Society Church of God In LA Filed Suit Against Protestors
The World Mission Society Church of God in California filed a complaint in Los Angeles County for injunctive relief (a court ordered prohibition of an act, in this case to stop protesting in front of the church) against protestors on April 12, 2013. The complaint alleges that protestors “engaged in a concerted effort to harass, annoy, and intimidate Church members who had come to observe the Sabbath” (page 6). According to the complaint, Diane Sims (former Deaconess of the WMSCOG in Los Angeles and Denver) her husband Jeff Sims, Renita Payno and other former members gathered to protest outside of the Reseda, California location on more than one occasion.
What was the reason for the protests?
Generally, both Mrs. Sims and Ms. Payno, expressed that the protests were to raise public awareness about what they experienced in the World Mission Society Church of God (see their combined response pages 202 and 228 respectively).
Here is a video of Mrs. Sims speaking about her experience as a deaconess in the World Mission Society Church of God and the reasons she ultimately left the organization. The video was released on YouTube in February of 2013, but was taken down some months later.
Here is a video that Ms. Payno shared on YouTube. Judge for yourself if their protesting efforts were anything like what the World Mission Society Church of God described to the Court.
Did the World Mission Society Church of God win this case?
No. The motions filed by the World Mission Society Church of God were denied by the Court on June 20, 2013 (pages 258-261). Then the World Mission Society Church of God requested that their case be dismissed by the Court on January 14, 2014 (page 306). The preceding case summary and the following analysis are for informational purposes only. The entire case file is available below.
The WMSCOG asked the Court for an order to stop protestors from:
- trespassing on Plaintiffs property, including but not limited to the Reseda Church, the Sunland Church, and the LA Church;
- obstructing Church members who are attempting to enter or exit Church property;
- congregating, marching, or otherwise protesting on the sidewalk adjacent to any Church property. Instead, Defendants may congregate, march, and otherwise protest at an alternative site on the sidewalk or paved shoulder area across the street from any Church property;
- shouting, yelling, or chanting in front of any Church property in a manner or at a volume or decibel level that interferes with normal Church activities; (pages 9-10)
Application for a Temporary Restraining Order
On April 12, 2013, the Court held a hearing on the ex-parte (emergency order) applications for a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed along with the complaint by the World Mission Society Church of God (page 25). Several WMSCOG members filed declarations (sworn statements) in support of the application filed by the group ((Treavor Sellnow (page 40), Anthony Martin (deacon) (page 43) and Rudy Molina (deacon) (page 45)). The Order states:
Pursuant to the stipulation of the Defendants, the Court orders the following: The Defendants are not to interfere with the congregations entrance and exit from the church, they are to stand away from the front of the church and they are to keep their voices down in a quiet, non-offensive manner.page 3
But does this mean that the WMSCOG was granted injunctive relief, as members have said on social media? No. It would appear from the record that the Defendants and the WMSCOG agreed to terms during the hearing that were then memorialized in the Court’s order but ultimately, the WMSCOG’s requests for a restraining order were denied.
Application for “Contempt”
The WMSCOG’s application to find the Defendants in contempt for alleged violations of the April 12, 2013 order (page 3), was denied on April 30, 2013 (page 58).
Multiple Applications Filed Requesting the Court to Find the Defendants in Contempt and for Sanctions
The World Mission Society Church of God was very persistent in its excessive filings with the Court. Despite their ex-parte applications for contempt and for a TRO being denied, they continued repeatedly filling almost identical motions.
- On April 30, 2013, the WMSCOG filed motions against Ms. Payno (page 59) and Mrs. Sims (page 82) for contempt and this time for attorneys fees in the amount of $3,150.
- On May 3, 2013, the WMSCOG filed motions against Ms. Payno (page 100) and Mrs. Sims (page 126) for contempt, attorneys fees and this time for sanctions in the amount of $1,500.
On May 3, 2013, the Court ruled:
The ex parte applications are denied. This is a quasi criminal matter and needs to be set as a noticed request for contempt hearing. Defendants are entitled to a hearing as opposed to an ex parte on a quasi criminal matter.page 145
California court rules state that notice to the opposing party on an ex-parte (emergency) application can be given as late as 10:00am the day before the hearing on the matter is scheduled to take place. Because ex-parte applications are done on short notice, the opposing party does not get a chance to fully oppose the motion ahead of time. The Court ruled that since the matter seeks sanctions and attorneys fees, the other side is entitled to have time to respond (due process). The Court reiterated this in an order entered on May 23, 2013 (page 152).
The Defendants’ Combined Declaration in Response to the Motions
The named Defendants denied all allegations made by the World Mission Society Church of God. In a combined declaration, the Defendants stated in part:
‘WE’ request the court orders an immediate cest [sic] and desist of the slanderous allegations made against any x-member, such as teaching the members, including children that those who leave the church are ‘demons’ predestined for ‘Hell’ and go as far as to tell children if they look at us they will die. The children walk into church with their heads down and their hands covering the sides of their faces.pages 147-148
The Defendants describe the motivation behind their public protests of the World Mission Society Church of God:
It is our intention to provide public information to current church members. Church members are forbidden to look at the internet although, the Plaintiff ,uses the internet as a social media marketing tool to gain members. Because of this sheltering the members are not aware of why so many people are leaving this church and told slanderous lies instead. Our intention again, is to inform the public of factual information.page 148
The World Mission Society Church of God Re-files the Motions
The World Mission Society Church of God re-filed their motions on June 20, 2013 (pages 154, 173). Mrs. Sims filed her opposition to the WMSCOG’s motion on June 14, 2013 (page 202). In addition to describing the reasons why Mrs. Sims ultimately left the WMSCOG, she stated:
I am seeking to exercise my constitutional right to free speech, press and assembly. As stated herein below, the California Legislature has found and declared that there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances. Therefore it has found and declared that it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of Judicial process.pages 205-206
Ms. Payno filed her opposition to the WMSCOG’s motion on June 19, 2013 (page 228) and stated in part:
Plaintiff’s fraudulent, misleading, concealing, manipulative, and cultlike activities, which caused Defendant to disaffiliate herself from Plaintiff and its members constitutes any other conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest.page 235
Both Mrs. Sims and Ms. Payno argued that when they protested outside of the World Mission Society Church of God, they assembled in a peaceful manner.
What Did the Court Conclude?
On June 20, 2013, a tentative decision regarding contempt and sanctions filed by the World Mission Society Church of God (page 258). The Court opined:
Nonetheless, the motion must be denied because neither Defendant Sims nor Payno willfully failed to comply with the order. It is undisputed that both Defendants complied with the ingress/egress requirement…The issue for contempt/sanctions is whether they were so loud and disruptive as to willfully violate the injunction. They were not…Both motions are denied.page 260
The tentative Order was then finalized by the Court (page 261).
Clearly, the WMSCOG’s case fell apart after this decision from the Judge and even though a trial date was set for June 25, 2014 (page 289), the World Mission Society Church of God requested that their case be dismissed by the Court on January 14, 2014 (page 306). Any supposed “injunctive relief” that the WMSCOG thinks they were granted, could have easily been turned over on appeal or by some other legal remedy, had the case gone forward.Sims-Case-Complete