A Santa Clara County judge has held Calvary Chapel in San Jose and its pastor Mike McClure in contempt for holding large indoor worship services with up to 600 people, which is in direct violation of state safety guidelines.
Early last month, the church was issued a restraining order by Santa Clara County with the hopes that it would stop holding the big gatherings but it didn’t.
Calvary Chapel was held in contempt for violating that restraining order. It was also fined $2,500 every time it held a church service. All together those new fines come to $55,000. Calvary Chapel has already been fined $700,000 for previous violations.
According to NBC Bay Area, McClure was not arrested for being in contempt. His lawyer says it is a legal option but it was never brought up in the courtroom.
After the ruling, dozens of the church’s members and supporters waited in front of the court for McClure to emerge.
The pastor then held a press conference where he said he would continue to give his parishioners a place to worship.
"You've got to either follow God or you've got to follow man. I have to follow what God's word said. You have to follow what God's word says. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm not worried about the things that you might be worried about. I worried about what God's worried about. God is worried about your heart and your life and your eternity, more than a mask because those are debatable things," McClure said on video posted by KPIX.
The legal team representing Calvary Chapel claims not allowing church services is unconstitutional and that the church plans to appeal the decision in Federal Court.
"Justice was not served today. Justice is not served by trying to bankrupt a church that's posed no threat to public health and safety based on the evidence that we have and is instead trying to help people," said Attorney Mariah Gondeiro.
But Santa Clara County believes that large indoor worship services do put people in danger.
"This entity’s ongoing violations put the whole community at risk, and they won’t be tolerated,” Santa Clara Counsel James Williams told KPIX.
The ruling against Calvary Chapel comes during several legal challenges involving other churches across the nation fighting to still hold services.
According to the SF Chronicle, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late last month that the state of New York couldn’t limit religious gatherings to just a handful of people.
Calvary Chapel has applied for an emergency federal hearing on December 17th with the hopes of getting the actions by the lower courts overturned.