California Church Shut Down Temporarily For Not Complying With County Health Orders

( A church in San Jose, California, has been prohibited from holding indoor services.

Santa Clara County has issued more than $350,000 in fines already to Calvary Chapel for violating coronavirus-related restrictions. On Monday, a county superior court judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop the church from holding their services.

According to the court, Calvary Chapel has been holding indoor gatherings that have included up to 600 people, which has posed the threat of becoming a “superspreader event.” Since May, the church has reportedly been holding in-person services without integrating social-distancing measures or requiring people to wear masks, according to officials with the county.

Health orders in Santa Clara County currently restrict indoor gatherings to only 100 people. Even in these situations, social-distancing measures must be followed, and all people must wear masks.

Last week, the county filed for a restraining order against the church as well as its pastor, Mike McClure. The district attorney for the county as well as the county’s counsel said filing the lawsuit was the “only remedy” because Calvary Chapel had refused up to that point to comply with the county’s health orders.

In a statement issued last week, officials with the county said:

“County officials spent months trying to work with church officials to get them to come into compliance voluntarily and issued fines when they refused. After church officials made clear they had no intention of ending their dangerous conduct, the County Counsel and District Attorney filed the request for a court order.”

According to the lawsuit, Calvary Chapel held in-person services and “trumpeted” them on livestreams it held, which was endangering both members and non-members of the congregation.

Counsel for Santa Clara County, James Williams, said last week:

“Santa Clara County has been fortunate to have the entire community come together, but this particular entity has been unwilling to follow any of the precautions. Our only goal is to have them practice their faith in a safe manner.”

Following the court’s decision Monday, Williams said in a press release:

“We are satisfied by the Court’s recognition that these violations of County and State Health Officer orders pose a threat to the broader community and issued an injunction to require the implementation of public health safeguards. The County fully supports the right to worship, and the health orders create a pathway for religious institutions to do so in a safe manner that helps protect the community’s wellbeing during a pandemic.”

When issuing its ruling for the temporary restraining order, the court also set a December 1 hearing to determine whether that restraining order would be extended.

The attorney representing both Calvary Chapel and McClure, Mariah Gondeiro, said it was unnecessary to shut down the church. Following the ruling, Gondeiro commented:

“The reality is, the church has not experienced one known COVID-19 case. Pastor Mike McClure’s church has been a refuge for so many hurting people suffering from anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide.”