Santa Clara County is going to court to stop a local church from hosting weekly services in violation of public health orders.
The District Attorney’s Office and County Counsel announced today that they’re asking a judge to order Calvary Church to stop holding indoor services that regularly draw about 600 people with no masks or social distancing in a sanctuary with a 1,900-seat capacity.
If the church still refuses to comply, the pastor could face jail time.
Local public officials have spent months trying to get the church to abide by public health orders that cap indoor gatherings at 100 people and mandate masks and social distancing. When that didn’t work, the county imposed $350,000 in fines.
The DA only stepped in after church officials made it clear that they have no intention of ending what the county calls “dangerous conduct,” officials said in a news release today.
Meanwhile, the church has lawyered up in hopes of fighting the county.
In a motion to deny the restraining order filed this week, Calvary Chapel attorneys accuse the county of overreacting.
“The virus, by all scientific measures, is no worse than the season flu, and Santa Clara County remains in one of the lowest tiers,” the filing argues in direct contradiction to research showing that Covid-19 is in fact more deadly and contagious than the flu.
Calvary Chapel also claims the county is upholding a double standard.
“Plaintiffs have also outwardly supported super spreader events like protests in the streets,” the motion goes on to say. “Yet now, the defendants have the gall to claim somehow the defendants’ indoor services will present a grave threat to the community. This is pure fear mongering and inconsistent with the facts and plaintiffs own actions. Defendants accordingly request that the court deny plaintiffs’ application in its entirety.”
The church claims its services are safe and that it has yet to identify a single Covid-19 case traced back to the Sunday gatherings.
“However, the church has experienced a significant increase in spiritual and mental distress," Calvary Chapel states in its motion. “In fact, Pastor Mike McClure has been in contact with people who are suffering from anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. The church services have played a vital role in sustaining the congregation’s spiritual, emotional, and mental wellbeing.”
McClure, who’s named as a defendant in the county’s case, will host a press conference today to denounce the public health order and Gov. Gavin Newsom.
An announcement of today’s 11am presser says McClure will be joined by a dozen fellow pastors from throughout California as well as Advocates for Faith and Freedom President Robert Tyler and Mariah Gondeiro, a partner at Tyler & Bursch, the law firm representing the church.
A court hearing on the matter has been set for Monday.