"The health conscious residents of Loma Linda, a small California city with a large Seventh-day Adventist population, have banned together to fight against the opening of the town's first McDonald's.
Nestled in a beautiful stretch of land east of Los Angeles, the 23,000 people who live in Loma Linda enjoy one of the longest life spans in the world -- on average, residents live well into their 80s. Its people are borderline obsessed with fitness and clean living, and they have a healthy population of centenarians to prove it.
So when McDonald's decided to move in, the people of Loma Linda went into red alert. When the issue to approve its opening came up before the city council, the meeting room was packed with outraged residents and health professionals, as if a nuclear waste dump, and not a fast food chain, was coming to town.
Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET
But the city isn't just full of fit families, it is also heavily Seventh-day Adventist, a religion that strongly encourages congregants to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as an alcohol, tobacco and caffeine-free lifestyle.
Pastor Randy Roberts of the Loma Linda University Church says healthy living is dictated straight from the scripture.
"In Corinthians, Paul speaking of the human body says specifically, 'you are the temple of the Holy spirit,'" explains Roberts. "Therefore, he says, whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God."
He says the church has not taken an official position on the McDonald's controversy, but stands for living "a balanced, healthy, and whole lifestyle."
Dr. Wayne Dysinger, a physician of preventative medicine and a Loma Linda resident, is a leading member of the community coalition that opposes McDonald's. He says it is not just about the burgers and fries on McDonald's' menu, but also about what the fast food chain represents to Loma Linda's residents who cherish the community's health-conscious history.
"Loma Linda is sort of a symbolic city for healthiness, and McDonald's is sort of a symbolism of unhealthiness," said Dysinger, a Seventh-Day Adventist and father of two. "That's a significant issue. My kids know about McDonald's. McDonald's is the one that sells the toys."
In response to the community opposition, McDonald's said in a statement to ABC News:
"We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes... McDonald's and our franchisee look forward to working with the Loma Linda City Council and residents to hopefully address any questions or concerns. We believe the new restaurant will support the Loma Linda community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."
McDonald's won't exactly be the first fast food chain in town. Though several health food stores are popular with residents, in recent years a handful of chains have arrived, including a KFC, Del Taco, Weinerschnitzel, Baker's Burger, and most notably a Carl's Jr., which also came under intense fire when it first moved in.
Caught in the middle between the health food advocates and the burger eating population, as well as the land developers and those who welcome business growth, is Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby.
A Seventh-Day Adventist and a physician himself, Rigsby says he has the desire to promote health, but doesn't feel limiting food choices is an appropriate mandate.
"I don't think it's the government's responsibility, personally, to legislate vegetarianism; I think if everyone became a vegetarian they would probably have a healthier life, but it has to be their choice," he said.
"I would hate to go to a town where vegetables are outlawed because the majority are meat and potato carnivores," he continued, "to me that doesn't make sense either way; I think people should have options."
Dysinger admitted, "I agree that we don't want to legislate health, but on the other hand, we can create healthy environments or we can be oblivious to healthy environments. I believe we have to do everything we can to create a healthy environment."
Mayor Rigsby said that if the citizens of Loma Linda want to ban further fast food development, a ballot initiative enabling residents to vote on the issue might be an acceptable approach going forward.
The small city is a particularly unusual battleground, considering the first McDonald's opened in 1940, just five miles away in the town of San Bernardino. Now the country's most iconic fast food chain has over 33,000 locations worldwide in 199 countries around the globe.
Even though Loma Linda's city council approved the McDonald's development, the residents who are fighting it say it's not a done deal yet. Dysinger said there is enough community opposition that he believes the council will want to reconsider their decision.
"We're continuing to work on this with the developer directly," he said. "We have other restaurants that we feel would be much healthier than McDonald's that we'd like to bring in…we'll do what we can to not have McDonald's in Loma Linda."
MCDONALD'S FULL STATEMENT
"McDonald's wants to be a good neighbor in the communities we serve. We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes.
"The City of Loma Linda approved this development for several uses, including the McDonald's restaurant. McDonald's and our franchisee look forward to working with the Loma Linda City Council and residents to hopefully address any questions or concerns. We believe the new restaurant will support the Loma Linda community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."
On the CNN news it is said that Loma Linda is the healthiest city in the USA, and might be the 4th healthiest place in the World. Now i think the number one reason for this is due to life-style changes, especially where health is concerned. They know the effects of food on the body for this reason most persons in that area are actually vegans.
phooey.. more 7 th day Adventists then in times past are eating meat and drinking soft drinks from McDonalds and other fast food restraunts then in times past without the regard to health. . I know it because people too lazy in their hectic lifestyle to prepare a healthy alternative and think it am ok. Loma Linda residents have no buisness trying to regulate authorities from preventing restraunts to open in their cities,,.
It is a choice people have to make themselves whether or not they will eat healthy or join the millions of others that follow after the worlds pattern.
The issue is whether or not as Seventh-day Adventists we should be known for trying to keep McDonald's out of our town, when we can simply choose not go there, or for sharing Jesus Christ with others, for helping someone in need, and for making a difference for the Kingdom that is not self-serving.
Go Loma Linda! I just gained another 10 in respect for that place! I'm pretty sure I know where I may be sending some of my offerings now! LOL
As for as what the government has to say on the issue if the locals don't want it it should not be forced on them..
The will of the people is what it's all about.This is still America.
It is not the will of the people here (as it is only some SDA's in Loma Linda), but the will of Seventh-day Adventists--who BTW speak about one day government "forcing" people to make them worship on Sunday. Same principal.
The SDA's make up the largest majority of the population of that community, so again... the will of the people..
If they don't want it in there town they shouldn't have to have it.... We have a system of reasonable debate, followed by a vote at those town hall meetings it is not decided by a hand full of people...
It is not every SDA that lives there that wants McDonald's gone: It just so happens that those who are opposed are SDA's....It will also be the will of the people (since you went there) who will want a National Sunday Law.
God has given us free will.... He has left this world largely to the will of corrupt man to let things play out and allow the ugliness of sin to be illustrated allowing all creation to see the true destruction that can be caused by sin and silence any argument of the adversary..... Yes it will also be the will of the people to pass the Sunday law... God from the beginning has given us all the free will to make both good and bad decisions.. If one was to fallow your point to it's conclusion though you may not have realized the fullness of your point you are basically saying that God was wrong to allow man the free will to make such decisions...
Point being God has given man free will to choose for him self what he wants and who he will serve.. Who am I to contradict God and take that will away from any man?
Besides that if we didn't still have a vote and the voice of the majority was not heard.... If we were in a monarchy and the princes of this world had there way the Sunday law would have passed long ago.. It is the majority that likes to keep their right to freedom of speech, freedom of choice
(a.k.a free will) that has kept them at bay this long....
As SD Adventist, it is our duty to share the health message, hence if thats the way they choose to share the message the.. Way to go Loma Linda .... lol
That is what I was just saying to Sarah.. Town hall meetings like the one described in this article are not invitation only they are open to the public and anyone who cares enough to have an opinion can show.. If thye don't come they obviously don't think care much either way what happens.
But that is not the way it happens on the City level....It may be wise to consider learning how businesses are approved in cities--following the Consititution. On the City Level, it is the City Council that decides. They allow the citizens to voice their opinions and perspectives, but it it the Council Members that vote and make the final decision in EVERY CITY.
What they can do is pass an ordinance requiring a BALANCE in the types of restaurants that are opened up in Loma Linda (which is what they are planning on doing and is fair), but they cannot stop or "block" it once the City Council has approved zoning and construction--according to the law.