Faced with a court order and nearly 2 million coronavirus deaths in the state, a California church is still planning to hold indoor services for Christmas.
The church, Calvary Chapel in San Jose, has been cited on several occasions for violating local health rules that prohibit gatherings inside, including for religious services. But Pastor Mike McClure has so far refused to pay the fines or shut down his weekly services of 700 people.
He reportedly said he didn’t even care that the violations landed him in jail.
“I respect the judge and I respect what the law says,” he said at a press conference outside of a hearing earlier this month. “But there is a greater law. I must be told, you follow God or you follow man. I must follow what the word of God says.”
The church is currently advertising a Christmas Eve candlelight service on its website. It’s unclear how many people will attend, but the event page describes it as “family service” and encourages worshipers to “bring the kids.” The church did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
The church continued to host indoor services for hundreds of people – without masks or social distancing – throughout the pandemic, despite a court order to cease and fined $ 2,500 for each day it held services. A second judge spoke out against the church earlier this week, saying the state had a compelling interest in preventing the spread of the disease and telling McClure, “The constitution is not a suicide pact.”
Santa Clara County lawyer James Williams called the church’s actions “shameful.”
“They face fines of over a million dollars, they have been convicted of contempt of court, we have returned for further contempt proceedings not only against the church, but against specific individuals who are helping and encourage these violations ”. he told ABC 7.
Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney representing the Church of Calvary, told the station that worshipers had “the right to exercise their First Amendment rights to assemble, pray and celebrate Christmas.” She did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Another church in California was banned from holding services this week after a federal appeals court refused to overturn the governor’s order. Pasadena’s Harvest Rock Church filed an emergency injunction to lift restrictions for Christmas Eve, but was rejected by the Circuit’s 9th Court of Appeals. District court judge Jesus Bernal had previously convicted the church twice, even after the US Supreme Court ordered him to reconsider his decision.
California is currently the country’s first hotspot against COVID-19, surpassing 2 million cases on Wednesday. More than 23,000 Californians have died in the pandemic and 18,000 are currently hospitalized. Intensive care units in parts of Southern California are full to capacity.
Newsom issued a stay-at-home order earlier this month that limited store capacity to 20 percent and banned indoor dining, as well as indoor worship services. On Monday, he announced that those measures would likely be extended beyond the original December 28 deadline.
#Heavy #fines #COVID #explosion #California #church #doesnt #care