The pastor of a large California church said Tuesday his congregation will not stop meeting for indoor worship despite fines from the county that have topped $50,000.
Jack Trieber, pastor of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, Calif., said in a new video on the church’s Facebook page that Santa Clara County posted an additional order on the church’s doors this week and is fining the congregation $5,000 for each service. The video includes a screen capture of the order.
“They've ratcheted this thing up,” Trieber said.
Health regulations from the city and county prohibit the church from gathering or singing indoors. The county previously gave the church a cease-and-desist order and claimed the congregation was not social distancing during indoor worship. Trieber, though, says the congregation is social distancing. (A video on the church’s Facebook page shows individuals social distancing while worshiping during a service.)
All total, the congregation has been fined $52,750.
The county’s order calls it an “unlawful indoor gathering.” It also says attendees are not wearing masks.
Trieber pleaded with the county to stop the fines. He also asked Americans for prayer and support.
He read from the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law – no law – [respecting] the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” he said.
“If we don't stop it here ... it's going to sweep all over the United States of America,” he said. “Government cannot take away our freedom. You cannot take our right to assemble.”
The order states: “If you do not immediately correct the violations, the County may take additional legal action against you, including civil or criminal prosecution, with additional resulting penalties, fees, and costs.”
Trieber called the county’s actions “harassment.”
“We have rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caesar, and we have rendered unto God through our tithes and offerings, which is His,” he said.
Addressing the county, Trieber said. “We are not closing down this church. I hope you get this message. I don't know what the consequences on your part is going to be. ... I know America does not want this to happen in her country, and at this church. God bless you, America. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your encouragement.”
It’s the second time Trieber has recorded a video for the public during the pandemic. In August, he said the state’s closure of churches has had a detrimental impact on the population.
“I'm in charge of the spiritual health of the people who sit in this area,” he said in the August video inside the church building. “... And although [physical] health is very important – of utmost importance – spiritual health is supreme. And because we've been locked out … of churches, suicide is up, domestic violence is up, drug addiction is up, homelessness is up, alcoholism is up. We need to get back to worshiping God. I am commanded to worship God.”
Photo courtesy: North Valley Baptist Church Facebook
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.