SAN JOSE (CBS SF/KPIX) — In the latest battle between church services and pandemic protocols in San Jose, Santa Clara County has won.
A court has granted the county a restraining order against Calvary Chapel San Jose, requiring the church to comply with COVID-19 public health orders.
The temporary restraining order issued by Santa Clara County Superior Court Monday prevents Calvary Chapel from hosting large indoor gatherings in violation of state and county health officer orders and requires parishioners to comply with safety measures such as wearing face masks during church services.
Since August, the non-denominational Christian church located on 1175 Hillsdale Ave. has been hosting weekly indoor church services attended by as many as 600 people without masks or social distancing, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and County Counsel.
Current health orders mandate that indoor gatherings for religious or other purposes be capped at 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is less, with masks and social distancing requirements being followed.
County officials said they have spent months trying to work with the church to bring them into compliance voluntarily, and issued fines when the church violated the order. The DA’s office and County Counsel jointly filed a lawsuit last week when the church made clear it would not end the large gatherings, according to the county.
The temporary restraining order requires the capacity to be reduced to 100 people.
Attorneys for Calvary called the injunction disappointing.
“The church fits 1900 people. The county makes it seem like these church services are crowded. They’re not crowded. They can fit 1900 people, 600 people attend – there’s plenty of room for 600 people to attend and stay an adequate distance apart,” said Attorney Mariah Gondeiro.
“We are satisfied by the Court’s recognition that these violations of County and State Health Officer orders pose a threat to the broader community and issued an injunction to require the implementation of public health safeguards,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams in a press release. “The County fully supports the right to worship, and the health orders create a pathway for religious institutions to do so in a safer manner that helps protect the community’s wellbeing during a pandemic.”
Gondeiro says the caring for the wellbeing of the community is exactly what Pastor Mike McClure is doing.
“People don’t go to the governor, they don’t go to the county, they go to the church to find refuge and that is what he has provided for so many people.”
Another hearing to determine whether to maintain the restrictions in the temporary restraining order was scheduled for December 1.
More information on the current Santa Clara County COVID-19 health order is available on the county’s Public Health website.