SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A Santa Clara County judge Tuesday held a San Jose church and its pastor in contempt over holding large indoor gatherings with hundreds in attendance in violation of COVID-19 safety protocols.
Judge Peter Kirwan ordered Cavalry Chapel and pastor Mike McClure to pay fines for violating a temporary restraining order requiring the church to stop holding indoor gatherings and requiring congregants to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.READ MORE: San Mateo Schools Prepare For COVID Outbreaks During Upcoming Academic Year
“These public health orders are literally a matter of life and death; they are designed to reduce COVID-19 transmission, avoid serious illness, and save lives,” said Santa Clara Counsel James Williams. “This entity’s ongoing violations put the whole community at risk, and they won’t be tolerated.”
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, attorneys said.READ MORE: COVID: San Jose Latest To Require Vaccination Or Weekly Testing For City Employees
Williams and District Attorney Jeff Rosen sued Calvary Chapel and McClure in October. A temporary restraining order was granted in early November, but attorneys said said the church and pastor have repeatedly defied the restraining order.
“I respect the judge, he’s in a hard, difficult position to be in, you know, because he’s looking at the newspaper and hearing about cases rising. And granted, it’s real,” said attorney Robert Tyler, who represents Calvary Chapel and McClure. “We need to stop the propaganda of fear, and this is what this is about.”MORE NEWS: San Francisco's Filthy Streets Getting A Deep Cleaning; 'It Smells A Lot Better'
Santa Clara County said in a statement said it continues to work with the faith community at large to ensure there are “lawful and lower risk alternatives” for worship, including services that are live-streamed or small services held outdoors. The county is among several in the Bay Area under a stay-at-home order that started on Monday. Only worship services held outdoors are being allowed under the order, which remains in effect through January 4, 2021.