Church fined $55,000, held in contempt for holding indoor services

Pastor Mike McClure of Calvary Chapel San Jose (right) defends his church's actions.NBC News screenshot

A church has been found in contempt of court and issued with a fine, after it continued to hold indoor church services with hundreds of congregants in attendance not wearing face coverings.

Calvary Church in San Jose, California has continued to hold in-person services for months, despite public health restrictions prohibiting large indoor gatherings in the county.

Senior Pastor Michael McClure and Calvary Church were found in contempt by a Santa Clara County Court judge this week for violating a restraining order issued at the start of November ordering the church to halt in-person services and gatherings.

The court fined the church $2,500 for each day it violated the county's health order. It is believed that the fines could add up to a total of $55,000.  

The judge also had the power to put Pastor McClure in jail for the continued breaches, but this was not threatened.

Pastor McClure defended the church's actions, saying that he was not opposed to the wearing of face coverings, and that "if someone wants to wear one, wear one".

He added, "But I'm not a policeman, I'm a pastor. I respect the judge. I understand what the laws are, but there's a bigger law. When I have to get told, 'you got to either follow God or you follow man,' I have to follow what God's Word says."

The church hopes to appeal the ruling. It has requested that the federal government intervene on behalf of the church.

Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams, who helped file the lawsuit against the church said, "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. This entity's ongoing violations put the whole community at risk, and they won't be tolerated."

It is reported that Calvary Church in San Jose continued to hold services in violation of restrictions, gathering around 600 for indoor services, despite county Covid rules prohibiting the gathering of more than 100 people indoors at such events.