California Supreme Court says church cannot be forced to pay over $200,000 in COVID-19 fines
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – The California Supreme Court has determined that Calvary Chapel Church in Santa Clara County does not have to pay the $217,500 in fines imposed by the state for violating COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the Christian Post (CP) reports.
Santa Clara County petitioned the California Supreme Court last week, asking that Calvary Chapel be forced to pay $217,500 in court fees: the and its pastor, Mike McClure, had been found in contempt and fined for violating a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction by holding in-person worship services in 2020 and 2021, CP reports. The state Supreme Court denied the petition.
The church had met for in-person services in violation of the county’s October 2020 guidance that congregational gatherings be limited to 25% capacity or 100 people, CP said. The county’s guidance did not apply to schools, train stations, airports, medical facilities, malls and retail businesses.
Pastor McClure was determined to keep the church open and held in-person services for about 600 people at a time. Responding to criticism for his action, Pastor McClure told his congregation,
“There are people who are accusing us that we are trying to kill people, that we don’t care about people. That’s the farthest thing from the truth. [The church] cares about the whole body. I don’t want to break the law, but … I’m called to preach the Gospel.”
Prior to the California Supreme Court’s decision in the Calvary Chapel San Jose case, the US Supreme Court ruled in a similar 2020 case in New York that: “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten…[the worship restrictions] strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
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