A California judge on Wednesday held a San Jose church and its pastor in contempt and fined them $55,000 for violating a restraining order that prohibited them from surpassing the limit on indoor gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan found Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastor, Mike McClure, had violated a Nov. 2 court order that required the church to follow specific health restrictions, KPIX-TV reported.
Under restrictions at the time, the church’s attendance was capped at 25 percent capacity or 100 individuals, whichever was less. Attendees also were required to wear masks and social distance. Under current restrictions, only outdoor services are allowed.
“Even if you disagree with those opinions, these orders do have a purpose,” the judge said. “You can’t just ignore those rules and regulations nor can you ignore a court order just because you disagree with them.”
The church’s attorneys previously called the restrictions "unreasonable.”
“The church fits 1,900 people. The county makes it seem like these church services are crowded. They’re not crowded,” church attorney Mariah Gondeiro said in November. “They can fit 1,900 people, 600 people attend – there’s plenty of room for 600 people to attend and stay an adequate distance apart.”
McClure on Wednesday indicated the church won’t stop holding services.
“You’ve got to either follow God or you’ve got to follow man. I have to follow what God’s Word says,” McClure said.
During a November sermon, McClure said the restrictions were harming the community.
“There are people that are accusing us that we're trying to kill people – that we don't care about people [but] ... that's the farthest thing from the truth,” he said in November. “The church, throughout the history of America, has started most (sic) all the hospitals. The church cares about the whole body. … I don't want to break the law, but ... I'm called to preach the gospel.
“... They want to negotiate, and I told them I don't want to negotiate until you give us some numbers to prove that you really care about people's health,” he added. “... What's the suicide rate? How many people are on medication because of anxiety and depression because of the lockdowns that they're forcing? So that's my question to them and I hope they give those answers.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.