Church Must Pay $1.2 Million For Defying COVID-19 Mandates

A California church must pay $1.2 million in fines and accrued interest for having the gall to defy Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s outlandish COVID-19 orders in 2020.

San Jose’s Calvary church in Santa Clara County was instructed by a California Superior Court last week to pay up for its “egregious conduct.” Judge Evette Pennypacker tossed aside the congregation’s argument that the public health mandates violated its religious freedom.

The Office of the County Counsel chastised the church, saying that “it should appear to all — regardless of religious affiliation — that wearing a mask while worshiping one’s god and communing with other congregants is a simple, unobtrusive way of protecting others.”

And if you do not agree, the fine is $1.2 million.

The statement added that instead of modeling the proscribed behavior, church officials “repeatedly flouted their refusal to comply with the Public Health Orders and urged others to do so ‘who cares what the cost,’ including death.”

Local media reported that after reopening its doors in May 2020, Calvary Chapel San Jose held services for the next year with roughly 300-500 people in attendance.

The church leadership and congregations were largely unmasked and mingled together. There were also about 1,000 baptism ceremonies conducted at the church.

The church reopened at a time when officials mandated a capacity cap for indoor activities. A federal court had previously rejected most of Calvary’s defense in the case, though part of the state’s charges were stayed.

Calvary initially sued the county over the pandemic rules in federal court, but in the process racked up large fines for violating the government mandates. Santa Clara County also responded with a restraining order and sued for fines plus interest.

The county argued in court that its priority was to take care of residents. It also claimed that its lawsuit against the church was to ensure accountability.

The San Jose Mercury News reported the church plans to appeal the ruling against it.

It is striking to see a government entity aggressively target a place of worship, especially over controversial mandates that many saw as a severe overreach. But California courts appear to toe the line with the belief that the state’s interests rise above those of Calvary Chapel’s worshipers.