The Morning Report
Get the news and information you need to take on the day.
Statement: An “estimated 15,000 people” attend Sunday services at The Rock Church in Point Loma, Liberty Station resident Bonnie Mann told the Union-Tribune for this Dec. 2 story.
Determination: Barely True
Analysis: In December, a San Diego Superior Court judge certified Mann’s bid to file a class action lawsuit against Corky McMillin Companies, the developer who controls the Liberty Station development home to The Rock Church.
The lawsuit claims McMillin failed to disclose that the popular megachurch would be located across the street from residential homes, including one owned by Mann and her husband. The Union-Tribune reported:
Mann, a retired speech pathologist who filed her suit a year ago, said she and her husband would not have bought and upgraded a house for nearly $1 million in 2004 if McMillin had disclosed The Rock Church would be moving across from Farragut Road.
Mann said the estimated 15,000 people who attend five Sunday services cause unbearable traffic, parking and noise problems. “It’s pretty much ruined our lives,” she said.
While the courts and residents weigh Mann’s concerns, it’s worth noting that the attendance estimate cited in the Union-Tribune and occasionally by other local news media overstates the church’s typical Sunday crowd.
We asked the church to provide records showing how many people attended Sunday services last year. It normally runs five worship services between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. and additional services for youth and families.
Only twice in the last year did the church tally come near or exceed 15,000 people for Sunday services. Attendance spiked Jan. 31, when a popular Christian rock band called The Katinas performed, and Aug. 1, when actor Jim Caviezel appeared to speak about his role in the movie The Passion of the Christ.
Average Sunday attendance for services was about 12,100. The graphic below illustrates how far attendance fell short of 15,000 most Sundays.
Since attendance came near or exceeded 15,000 people on two occasions, the statement contains an element of truth and can’t be ruled entirely inaccurate. Instead, we settled on Barely True because of the 3,000-visitor gap between the claim and typical attendance.
Our definition for Barely True says the statement contains an element of truth but lacks critical context that may significantly alter its impression. A Mostly True definition means the statement is accurate there’s only an important nuance to consider.
On its face, the statement implied that 15,000 people make up the typical Sunday crowd. It included no language explaining that the figure only referred to the church’s most popular days.
In fact, the gap between the claim and typical attendance is large enough to exceed attendance for the vast majority of worship services last year. Adding 3,000 people to the typical Sunday crowd would have been like adding one or two more worship services every Sunday.
For that reason, we felt the gap was lacking critical context rather than a nuance. Knowing much fewer than 15,000 people regularly attend Sunday services and contribute to the concerns outlined in Mann’s lawsuit may significantly alter the statement’s impression.
Mann’s attorney, Stephen Morris, didn’t dispute the church’s attendance records. But he said the 15,000 figure was intended to be a ballpark estimate. He rounded the sanctuary’s seating capacity down from 3,500 to 3,000 and multiplied by five for each worship service.
“Whether its 15,000 or 12,000, that’s a lot of thousands no matter how you slice it,” he said.
Lastly, it worth noting that some news reports have used a slightly different version of the statement, saying the church has 15,000 members. MaryAnne Pintar, a spokeswoman for the church, said it doesn’t keep a formal membership registration.
“We have been unable to track down where the 15,000 originates,” she wrote in an email.
If you disagree with our analysis or rating, or have more details to share about this issue, please express your thoughts in the comments section below.
What claim should we explore next? Contact Keegan Kyle directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.