County responds to church’s claims

COYOTE
– County lawyers filed a formal response this week to a
countersuit by a San Jose ministry they sued for allegedly setting
up a huge tent church in Coyote Valley without proper permits.
COYOTE – County lawyers filed a formal response this week to a countersuit by a San Jose ministry they sued for allegedly setting up a huge tent church in Coyote Valley without proper permits.

San Jose’s Victory Outreach Church sued the county in September, alleging officials were interfering with the ministry’s First Amendment rights to practice religion by seeking to discontinue services in the 10,000-square-foot tent at 1000 Monterey Road.

County Counsel’s office called the countersuit “frivolous and vexatious” in court documents filed this week, and asked for a refund of their attorneys’ fees.

“The county denies that any of (Victory Outreach’s) constitutional or statutory rights have been violated by any act or omission by the county,” reads the claim.

The response also argues the county acted within the scope of its discretion in good-faith and in the least restrictive means possible.

County officials say they respect the ministry, which has spent two decades helping combat social problems such as drug and alcohol addiction in the Santa Clara Valley – and spent months working with officials on land-use issues over the tent pitched last year on a 21-acre property between Palm and Ogier avenues.

That location is smack in the middle of the Coyote Valley greenbelt – a politically sensitive strip of land meant to separate Morgan Hill from expansive future growth planned in south San Jose.

Church officials have characterized the tent as a temporary solution, saying the organization’s growth forced the ministry to relocate several times over the years while searching for adequate space to provide services that include rehabilitation and counseling for people with drug addictions or abusive lifestyles.

A pastor has said the church has no other options but the Coyote location at this time.

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