Flat Creek Baptist faces $1,000 county fine for Saturday car, craft show

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Flat Creek Baptist Church Pastor Josh Saefkow preaches at the May 28 service.Photo/church video.
Flat Creek Baptist Church Pastor Josh Saefkow preaches at the May 28 service.Photo/church video.

“If they have a car show, they will be fined,” said Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson Thursday.

Flat Creek Baptist Church plans to have the car show on its parking lots, most out of sight of the main road in front of the church, Flat Creek Trail. Among those showing prized vehicles on the church property is Fayette County Sheriff Barry Babb.

The entire community has been invited to the outreach event Saturday, June 3.

Meanwhile, with the written permission of the Fayette County Zoning Department, rapper Rick Ross will proceed with his paid admission car show at the former Evander Holyfield mansion in north Fayette. That same zoning permission for the church was denied last month.

Ross held his car show last year with county permission. Officials let him have the event without placing any restrictions on him. The church held a car show last year without asking for county permission. Neighbors around the Ross mansion complained about traffic congestion at last year’s show, and it got the county’s attention for this year. There were no complaints filed about last year’s church car show, but a county marshal saw the church putting up a sign for this year’s show and told them they had to get a permit.

“Questions are swirling around about the car show since Mr. [Rick] Ross has got his permission,” said Josh Saefkow, pastor of Flat Creek Baptist Church in his May 28 sermon to the congregation of several hundred in the sanctuary of the 197-year-old church just northeast of Peachtree City. “What about our craft and car show at the Creek? What about our outreach to the community?”

Both Fayette County Commission Chairman Lee Hearn and Commissioner Eric Maxwell have apologized to him, Saefkow told the congregation. The two wanted to approve the church car show but were outvoted by commissioners Charles Oddo, Edge Gibbons and Charles Rousseau, Saefkow said. “[Hearn and Maxwell] both fought for you, Flat Creek,” the pastor said.

“This is not persecution,” Saefkow told the congregation. “This is bullying … bullying at its finest. It’s clear to me that some of our public servants have gotten a little too big for their britches.”

The pastor continued, “We never asked for permission to do evangelism. Christian obedience may mean civil disobedience. Let me remind you why we are having a car and  craft show: this community is full of broken, lost sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and grace … [and we want] to build a connection with our neighbors who need us.”

“That’s why I say to Mr. Rick Ross — you are invited to our car show. County commissioners, you are invited here. Our desire is to wash the feet of those who serve us. I don’t care if you are the biggest critic we have in this community. We’re inviting you to Jesus.”

Meanwhile, northeast of the 20-acre church campus, a varied show with an individual ticket price north of $200 will include over $300,000 in prize giveaways with awards for best car, best bike, hustler of the year and best hot rod, according to vibe.com.

“It’s going down at the Promise Land, it’s like a party, it’s like a barbecue. It’s not going down at one of them spots where everybody got on a mask, it’s like the Olympics. Rose gold — not silver, but white gold,” Rick Ross said on social media.

Ross-rented buses will take attendees from off-site parking lots to Ross’s mansion and back. At least two dozen off-duty officers will provide security and traffic direction.

Rapper Diddy plans to fly in on his personal jet to attend the show, he said on Instagram.

So if the church is ticketed for a zoning violation by the county marshals, what happens next? The ticketed person must show up in person before Fayette State Court Judge Jason Thompson, who will make the determination whether county zoning language will make a church’s evangelistic and community outreach efforts an illegal venture.

Off stage, the county has begun plans to rewrite the county’s A-R zoning ordinance to do away with a list of things you cannot do in that zone, Rapson said Thursday.

Church poster advertising the outdoor event for June 3.
Church poster advertising the outdoor event for June 3.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Having been following this story for a while, It’s not what is said in this article, but what is deliberately being avoided that speaks the loudest.

    The Rick Ross car show has been a source of heavy complaint to the county commissioners by the citizens of North Fayette county for several months now. The commission explored several schemes in order to block that show in open session, but failed to meet consensus due to concerns of legal exposure. This forced discussion into executive session. Because of that, some of the details are rather sketchy.

    Then a fly in the ointment was discovered by a County Marshall. Flat Creek Baptist Church, which is in a similar zoning, had also planned a car show event for the very same day. This event had taken place in the past several years, and had never been an issue, nor caused public outcry. Obviously, the church felt this to be within their prevue of outreach ministry and had never though they needed to apply for a waiver or permit.

    With the county commissioners trying to shut down Rick Ross that had been a nuisance by using whatever legal means they could, looks to have also tangled Flat Creek in their net. As such, they can not one apply rules against one without enforcing them equally to the others.

    But it would appear that the North Fayette cars show may have discovered a loophole and possible reapplied for a permit with a slightly different stated use consistent with it’s zoning and as such is now somehow exempted.

    I can’t say why Flat Creek didn’t fight the issue, but perhaps the lawyers are more expensive than fines, and you can’t buy this kind of publicity and public sentiment this cheap.

    The bottom line is the commissioners which have been polishing their sanctimonious halos failed to accomplish their stated task of stopping the Rick Ross Car and Bike Show at the expense of the other commissioners which were likely voting to protect the taxpayer’s pocketbook from litigation expenses. Now who is the bully?

  2. The “big deal” is that they are being bullied by the county government. They have been having public events on their own property for 100+ years. Without a permit. This year the county asked they to apply for a permit. They applied. They were willing to pay. County denied. Typical bullying move. The guy across town got his permit for pretty much the same thing. Why give a guy in residential neighborhood (who is certain to piss off a few neighbors) a permit and deny the entity that regularly has large crowds on their property? Why?
    What is the big deal?

    • Doc – How silly of me. Of course this is a big deal. These evangelicals are happy to control every impulse of a woman’s pregnancy, howl over people marrying whomever they love, ban books from the school library, worship an orange god who breaks every commandment he ever encounters, etc., but god forbid that they have to obey any law or ordinance.

      It breaks my heart to see how roundly these Christians are being fed to the lions once more.

      You really can’t make this stuff up. Truth is always stranger than fiction.

      • Fiction – Yes, you are being silly (at best) in your latest lefty rant. Please try logic instead of the empty bumper sticker slogans.

        What does controlling “every impulse of a woman’s pregnancy” even mean? I’m not an evangelical, but am fairly certain they are in favor of a full term pregnancy.

        Marriage had been between a man and a woman for centuries, even codified into federal law in the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 by Clinton. Your statement would include children, so you may want to clarify that one.

        Books are not being banned. School boards cannot house every book, and they have to choose age and community appropriate material. Please explain why a 10 year old needs to read “This Book Is Gay”.

        Christians worship one God.

        As DrB summarized well, the church did attempt to get a permit.

        Mankind got along decently well for centuries with traditional values, strengthened by those that set America apart. You seek change, so it is on you to make the case for why we must go woke, not just try to bully others with angry rhetoric.

  3. What’s the big deal? It’s just a lousy thousand tax-free bucks out of the millions this church takes in each year. It’s just the cost of doing business.

    We’ll see if they even consider Jesus’ admonition to bless those that mistreat you. Don’t hold your breath.

    • Fiction – The big deal is that this is even an issue.

      Since it was up for a vote, there must have been a path to award the permit. What reason did Oddo, Gibbons and Rosseau give for voting it down?

      Seems to me we have a trio on the county commission that has Big Government Disease, or they share your disdain for Christians.

      And by the way, the pastor invited all (even you) to attend. Re-read the 10th paragraph.