At a California church, a sort of holy war

By Ashley Powers

Los Angeles Times (Mct)

Published: Monday, July 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

One of the police officers turned around and sized up the priest and his band of mostly aging men. "They're not going to rush the gates," the officer said.

A woman cracked the gate just enough for the cops to slip through. After much discussion, the officers decided that the judge's ruling offered them little guidance.

The next night, Kelley's plan succeeded. Sort of.

After the locksmith let them in, Kelley's group streamed into the church's first floor, an unassuming space with a stage, a kitchen, a nursery and a children's altar festooned with red roses. Presiding over the unlikely scene: a picture of Pope Benedict.

The group climbed stairs to another door, which leads to a long hallway. It's close to the second-floor sanctuary where Kelley once preached. The locksmith opened the door. Kelley's group peered down the hall.

At the other end: their rivals.

Both sides rushed to call 911. Kelley's group retreated downstairs. They've been there in varying numbers ever since — one month and counting.

During the day, Kelley and his supporters, who come and go most days, pray for a cease-fire. At night, they take turns guarding the space, sometimes by napping on the stage. Meanwhile, they've filed their own lawsuit.

Their foes on the second floor, also protecting their turf in shifts, aren't ceding ground, either. Keith Kang often carries a video camera to document any confrontations. And Morello, the Anglican official, said church authorities are taking steps to discipline Kelley via an ecclesiastical trial.

The other day, Kelley was sitting at a table, drumming his fingers on a Book of Common Prayer, when someone drew a parallel between the standoff and the biblical tale of King Solomon. The king settled a dispute between two women over a baby by threatening to slice the child in half; the woman willing to give up the baby to keep it safe was awarded custody.

It wasn't Kelley who made the comparison or his supporters.

It was the armed security guard they'd hired.

©2012 Los Angeles Times Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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