Feared for their safety? Why? Because they are a bunch of motorcycle priests? Come on! God bless this pastor for sticking to the word of God.
By ERIC CARPENTER
BUENA PARK – Leaders of a planned protest outside a Buena Park church that runs a group-home program for convicted sex offenders canceled the protest Sunday, saying they feared for their safety.
But, they said, they will keep up pressure on governmental officials to close the homes, located in a quiet Anaheim neighborhood with lots of children.
The church's pastor, The Rev. Jose Mata, spoke to a reporter outside the church Sunday, saying he is aware of the neighbors' concerns, but he believes in his church's mission and won't move or close the homes.
Neighbors learned last month that the church, Holy Ground Christian Fellowship, was renting two Anaheim homes within blocks of each other and running them as group homes for 11 sex offenders – six in one home, five in the other.
- Please visit this Christian Fellowship web site, and send them an email. They are looking for ways to help spread the word that not all ex-sex offenders are dangerous. Also see the comments to this blog post below.
That outraged many neighbors who said it has created suspicion and fear, prompting some parents to keep their children indoors.
Community leaders announced last week that they would picket the church on the 7600 block of Ninth Street in Buena Park on Sunday. But protest leader Linda Liptrap-Gutierrez – whose home backs up to one of the Anaheim group homes – drove by the church Saturday, then decided to call off the protest.
"There was a lot of tagging on structures, it appeared gang-infested and I didn't want our neighbors to feel unsafe," she said.
The church, near Beach Boulevard, is in a commercial suite next to apartments. The group homes are about 10 miles away from the church.
Betsy Mata, Jose's wife and the director of the group-home program, agreed that it is a "rough neighborhood" and said it was wise of the protesters to stay away.
"We serve this neighborhood. We've had to break up fights (outside) before," Betsy Mata said. "And if people came in with protest signs, I couldn't predict what might happen."
Jose Mata said the church, which caters to outsiders seeking to turn around their lives through Christianity, was founded eight years ago and has 60 members. They started the mission to rehabilitate sex offenders 2 1/2 years ago.
Six convicted sex offenders are living in a house on the 1700 block of North Rutherford Street; five more offenders are living at a home on the 1700 block of North Meadowlark Lane.
The group-home residents also are required to attend Sunday services at the church. None wanted to speak to a reporter, Jose Mata said.
He and his wife knew they were tackling a "taboo issue in society." But the sex offenders are screened and closely monitored, he said.
"I am a father myself. I get why neighbors have concerns," said Mata, 57, whose son is 33. "I would have these people living with me, if I could, but there are tough restrictions on where they can live – and these homes are some of the few places where they can live."
Group homes for sex offenders cannot be close to schools or parks.
"I believe these are men committed to turning their lives around through Christ," Mata said. "Some people will tell you the only way they will change is with a bullet through their head. We don't believe that. They made mistakes. And with love and compassion, they can change."
Liptrap-Gutierrez said she understands the social issue and she, too, is a Christian. "This is not a battle of who is more Christian, it is about right and wrong," she said. "I realize these men need help, but it is not right for them to be living in our neighborhood, putting the burden on us."
- Yes, it is about right and wrong. And being a Christian, or God fearing person, is part of that.
Community leaders met with state Sen. Lou Correa (Contact), D – Santa Ana, on Friday to air their concerns. They plan to petition the Anaheim City Council for help Tuesday.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin