County Sues San Jose Calvary Chapel to Halt Indoor Services

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.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

13 Comments

  1. First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    Psalm 91
    1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
    2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge, and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

  2. Thankfully, Jennifer Wadsworth posted the church’s opposition to the County’s TRO application in Santa Clara County Superior Court (i.e., state court), because it discloses an important fact not mentioned in the article above: The church has already sued the County in federal court regarding the constitutional issues implicated by the restrictions on its congregants right to worship. The federal suit is pending. Indeed, the very first argument raised by the church “as a threshold matter” in its opposition (hyperlinked in the article above) is that the state court should stay its proceedings in deference to the pending federal lawsuit, in which County officials could have pursued the same relief. The church describes the County officials’ behavior in filing in state court abusive of the judicial process (Opposition, at pp.5-6).

    Jennifer, you might ask County officials why they did not pursue relief in federal court and whether the church is correct in characterizing the failure to do so as abusive of the judicial process. Seems like that is newsworthy in assessing the good faith vel non of our local officials.

  3. Another argument raised in the church’s opposition briefing is that there is no emergency necessitating a TRO. If there was an emergency, the County would have sought such relief months ago.

    Interestingly, the church pastor (also a defendant) is quoted in an Epoch Times article from early October (more than three weeks ago), making the same argument: if the County seriously believed this was an emergency, the County would have sought an injunction awhile ago.
    https://www.theepochtimes.com/silicon-valley-pastor-fights-220000-in-fines-by-california-officials-for-holding-church-services_3530777.html

    Hard to argue that the County is not seriously concerned about the supposedly imminent dangers of indoor services after allowing them to persist for several months. Again, there are questions for journalists to ask County officials about their good faith, or not.

  4. People should know all churches DO NOT have similar opinion. My church is international and following guidelines. Some missionaries were infected here in Santa Clara county just last month. The word says where there are two or three congregated in my name, I am there too. God is like the air, it is everywhere. You don’t see it, but you feel it. He sent this virus to teach us lessons and to kill some he does not want in this world. Others will die for not listening and not understanding the gravity of this virus. I told you from the beginning many were going to die! Those who do not shelter in place will die. There were those whose ego grew too much. God wanted to show them how insignificant they are. God’s power is immeasurable. Do not fight it; surrendered…He loves the personal and intimate relationships with each of us. His presence is like the heartbeat. You forget is there. If you pay attention, you feel it. If you place you palm on your chest, you can feel it even more. You may hear him too! It is always there until you die. SHELTER IN PLACE UNTIL THE PLAGUE IS GONE! If you go out, take care of yourself and others. Connect to the lord from the intimacy of your home. Saturday is the Day of the lord! Shalom!

  5. > My church is international and following guidelines.

    So, all churches need to be like your church. Right?

    If a church is not like your church, it’s a bad church. Right?

    Why do we need any other churches? Your church should be good enough for everybody.

    > SHELTER IN PLACE UNTIL THE PLAGUE IS GONE!

    What if the plague is NEVER gone? That’s an awful lot of “sheltering in place”. Pretty much a life sentence to house arrest.

    After COVID-19, I’m sure there will be a COVID-20. Then a COVID=21, COVID-22, COVID-23, and on. You DO know that numbers go on forever, right?

    Even if the COVID’s only went up to infinity minus one, that’s still a lot of COVID’s and a lot of sheltering in place. Maybe even through the 2024 election.

  6. Bubble, that is exactly the point! Calvary church DOES NOT represent the opinion of all churches. It is Funny you and others called those protesting anarchics… If a church is violating the law then it is a freedom of religion? Learn to be consistent with your thoughts and opinions. If it fits Trump’s ideas it is “Patriotism.” If it goes against Trump’s is anarchism! HELLO PEOPLE YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE INSIDE A Structure TO PRAY TO GOD!

  7. Calvary church, please read Matthew 6 and share with your congregation. Si fuera tu fe como un grano de mostaza…Amén

  8. > If a church is violating the law then it is a freedom of religion?

    You got it backward, FEXXY (not surprising).

    If a church has freedom of religion, then it’s not violating the law.

    Freedom means freedom.

  9. Note: On 11/2/2020 Santa Clara County Family Court Clerk’s office had more people in a closed records room and clerks waiting area than any church would have. No social distancing or protection when it comes to members of the public trying to access the courts. It took four hours to file one document in the clerks office. Parents were forced to wait in the cafe with their children. Sheriffs deputies ignored people not wearing masks INDOORS. In the file room, 10 people were smashed into one of the smallest spaces possible. All closed up together. Last I checked, church services last about an hour and most churches have 10 times the room a court file room has. Until and unless the county evenhandedly applies the rules, they will lose trust of the local taxpayers and voters. Shame on Jeff Rosen and James Williams – never has this county had a DA and county counsel wasting more money and resources on political prosecutions. And as every supervisor sits it out. #SusanEllenberg #MikeWasserman #DaveCortese #JoeSimitian #CindyChavez, they are supposedly in charge of this mess! Shouldn’t Jeff Rosen be more worried about getting his response into the the Sixth District Court of Appeal in the CCW case than if folks go to church?

  10. Susan, it is well known the Santa Clara County family court is a nut House, milking money and settlement system. And yes! Supervisors are in charge of this big mess. The word of THE lord says…When the head is corrupted, every body part is corrupted too! This is why the virus is here to stay. Jeff Rose is big joke!

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