Religious Group Says Its Piece on City Permits

Los Angeles Times, October 31, 1997
By John Canalis

Clad in humble colonial-style clothing, Costa Mesa's Piecemakers religious group entered Municipal Court on Thursday after singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" and strolled out with a monthlong delay on a misdemeanor arraignment for one member. in the parking lot of the group's Country Store in Costa Mesa.

Judge Susanne S. Shaw declined to dismiss the charge but agreed to delay the arraignment until Dec. 2, at which time Sorensen will be expected to enter a plea.

Sorensen, a longtime member and a group leader, contends that she and the Piecemakers have been wrongfully charged for performing "Big River" without a permit. The group has said such municipal requirements are invasive and contrary to God's will.

"It's not about permits, it's about knuckling under the government," Sorensen said.

Steven H. Rosenblit, an attorney representing the city, said the charge was filed legally.

During the hearing, Shaw reminded Sorensen that the count is a misdemeanor, likely settled by paying a fine. "This isn't exactly the most horrendous charge I've ever seen before."

Before the court appearance, about 40 Piecemakers and supporters held a 7 a.m. rally in front of their craft store, where they prayed, sang, blew horns and decorated cars with American flags and placards reading: "Let My People Go" and "Liberty or Death."

The Piecemakers and the city often are at odds. City inspectors recently cited the group for alleged safety violations at a warehouse that supplies the Country Store on Adams Avenue.

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