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Summary Judgment

Theft by Flooding – Feds Covet Then “Take” Church Land

May 01, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

Recently, the main stream media fawned over an “historic transition” in Cuba as Raul Castro “steps down” in favor of Miguel Diaz-Canel even as the reins are retained by Raul Castro’s son Alejandro Castro-Espin, “a KGB-trained colonel in Cuba’s secret police and a fanatical Stalinist.”  Pastor Victor Fuentes of Pahrump, Nevada, knows better because, just over 27 years ago, to escape Fidel’s dictatorship and secure medical aid for his mother, he swam nearly 7 miles from Santiago, Cuba to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base seeking political asylum.  Sadly, the past seven years have tested this proud citizen’s faith in whether, unlike Cuba, America is a nation of laws and not of powerful men.

Today, Pastor Fuentes’ church Ministerio Roca Solida (Solid Rock Ministry) is in a federal court in Washington, D.C. arguing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stole its water rights, diverted a stream that crossed its property, and, nearly annually for seven years, flooded its land damaging buildings, destroying property, and creating a moonscape.  For their part, the agency, its officials and lawyers, and Justice Department attorneys say endangered species needed the water they took, the church is owed nothing, and its lawsuit must be dismissed.  Little wonder Pastor Fuentes declares, “I am an immigrant from Cuba who risked death to escape Castro’s regime … only to be in a country overrun by a federal government that reminds me of the horrors from which I fled.”

Pastor Fuentes is no stranger to tribulation.  Granted political asylum in early 1991, he was placed in Las Vegas where, desperate for the financial means to bring his mother to America, he sought aid from former Cuban nationals operating a drug distribution ring.  They  promised to help him if he helped them.  He did, but it landed him in federal prison for three years.  There, exposed for the first time to Christianity (Cuba was officially an atheist state when he fled), he was “born again,” became a Christian, and swore his life to Christ.  On release, he became an ordained minister, witnessed with his story of sin and redemption to youth on the streets of Las Vegas, and eventually, with his wife Annette’s support (they married in 1995), formed his Church in Pahrump, Nevada.

It grew to over 70 souls, one of whom made it possible, in 2006, to purchase for $500,000, a 40-acre parcel surrounded by Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Amargosa Valley, 30 miles from Pahrump.  They called it Patch of Heaven because a spring-fed stream irrigated the trees and shrubs, provided water for a tranquil pond, and created, in Pastor Fuentes’ words, “an oasis soothing to the soul and an ideal setting upon which to reflect upon God and His word.”  They spent over $700,000 to repair buildings, restore septic systems, and realize needed improvements, most accomplished by Pastor Fuentes and church volunteers.  The Church hosted retreats, Christian campers, and baptisms, but most importantly it was a refuge for troubled youths from Las Vegas and others struggling with addictions. 

In December 2010, the Church’s neighbor, the Fish and Wildlife Service, without obtaining a Clean Water Act permit, without complying with the National Environmental Policy Act, and over the objections of a hydrological expert, diverted the stream onto its own land. Two days before Christmas, the newly re-routed waterway jumped its banks, sent a torrent of mud and water across Patch of Heaven, and did over $90,000 worth of damage.  Flood waters came again three more times bringing the damage total to $225,000.  Because of the threat of seasonal flooding, repairs are futile, the grounds and buildings are virtually useless, and a dusty mini-Grand Canyon gashes through what was once lush wetlands.

Pastor Fuentes wants to know if the Constitution’s words, “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation,” apply to a poor pastor, his tiny parish, and a church refuge in the desert of Nevada.

For more information:  Ministerio Roca Solida v. United States

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