The Consequences of Selling the Tower Theatre to a Church

The sale of the historic Tower Theatre, built in 1939, to a Christian church (Adventure Church), unleashed a battle not only in the Tower neighborhood but also throughout the city of Fresno. If the sale goes through, the church would need to have the area rezoned to be able to operate as a church there. Currently, the area is designated for commercial use. The area’s merchants oppose the sale to a church for obvious reasons, and one of them—Sequoia Brewing Company—has filed a lawsuit.

Neighbors also oppose the sale and have organized several protests. To make things worse, on Feb. 18, on the marquee of the theater, a message was displayed expressing condolences for the death of racist DJ Rush Limbaugh. Although it’s not clear if the church is responsible for the message, on its website Adventure Church declares the Tower Theater as its primary location. The Tower District, as the neighborhood is known, is populated in part by artists and members of the LGBTQ community, whom Limbaugh denigrated constantly.

Many local residents expressed disagreement with the historic and iconic theater being occupied by a church. The Painted Table, a local restaurant, tried to buy the theater, but the effort didn’t go through.

The controversy escalated when the mayor of Fresno, Jerry Dyer, offered Adventure Church—founded in 2010 by pastors Anthony and Mindy Flores—to desist buying the theater in exchange for using part of the Fresno Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno for 10 years without paying rent, plus free city utilities (water and sewage). Some organizations currently using that building complained that they were not offered similar privileges.

The Community Alliance reported about the controversial sale of the Tower Theatre to a church in the February edition, and in this edition we have another interesting piece about it.

Also this month, we have interesting stories on the dubious policy of the City of Fresno toward our homeless population, climate change, the effects of Covid-19 on farmworkers and the meaning of International Women’s Day from the perspective of an immigrant woman.

For the April edition, the Community Alliance will present a special supplement dedicated to the impact of the oil industry on our environment, communities and local political life.

In May, our newspaper will present a virtual panel with experts on the issue of mass incarceration and the prison system. This panel will be part of a presentation in which the book Our Punitive Society: Race, Class, Gender, and Punishment in America, written by Dr. Morghan Velez-Young, a professor at Fresno State, will be discussed. We’ll let our audience know how to register for this important panel and book presentation.

The goal of the Community Alliance isn’t just to inform but also to contribute through ideas and dialogues to the improvement of our community. Together, we can do it.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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