Judge Orders California Church to Halt Large Indoor Services
A California judge Monday ordered a San Jose church to stop holding weekly indoor services for hundreds of people, granting county officials a restraining order against the church that has accrued more than $350,000 in fines for violating coronavirus shutdown orders.
Santa Clara County last week filed for a restraining order against Calvary Chapel San Jose and Pastor Mike McClure over the weekly services that attract about 600 people who don’t wear masks or social distance.
Indoor Gatherings Limited to 100 People
Under the county health order, indoor gatherings for religious or any other purposes are limited to 100 people, face coverings must be worn, and social distancing requirements must be followed. The church has been hosting weekly indoor services with approximately 600 people who do not wear face coverings or socially distance from one another.
“The Court agreed with the County that Calvary’s manner of hosting indoor gatherings poses a threat of a large outbreak, and it explained that Calvary must comply with the same set of rules that apply to the rest of the community,” county officials said in a statement.
County Sought Voluntary Compliance for Months
County officials spent months trying to work with church representatives to get them to come into compliance voluntarily and issued fines when they refused, official said.
“The County fully supports the right to worship, and the health orders create a pathway for religious institutions to do so in a safer manner that helps protect the community’s wellbeing during a pandemic,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams.
Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney representing McClure and the church, said the ruling was disappointing and that shutting down the church is unnecessary.
“The reality is, the church has not experienced one known COVID-19 case,” Gondeiro said. “Pastor Mike McClure’s church has been a refuge for so many hurting people suffering from anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of suicide.”