Court fines California church $55,000 for repeatedly defying health orders
A California court has found the Calvary Chapel San Jose in contempt and fined the church $55,000 for refusing to abide by orders to stop having unmasked indoor gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Santa Clara County district attorney sued the church in October for holding indoor services with hundreds of unmasked people, NBC News reports. In November, a court granted a restraining order, which the church and its pastor, Mike McClure, repeatedly violated.
“I respect the judge, I understand what the laws are, but there’s a bigger law,” McClure reportedly said. The pastor claims he is not against masks and said individuals should wear them if they want but added, “I’m not a policeman; I’m a pastor.”
In a statement, Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams said the church is endangering the entire community.
“Given the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, it is absolutely vital for all individuals and entities to urgently and fully comply with all public health orders,” Williams said. “This entity’s ongoing violations put the whole community at risk, and they won’t be tolerated.”
NBC Bay Area reports that attorneys for the church have called the restrictions unconstitutional and will attempt to have the matter moved to a federal court.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in November to suspend restrictions placed on churches in New York by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). It had ruled in favor of such restriction earlier this year before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September.
Santa Clara County added in its statement, “The County is continuing to work with the wider faith-based community to continue to ensure that there are lawful and lower-risk alternatives available for worship, including live-streamed services and small outdoor worship services.”