California Catholic church forced to pay $1.2 MILLION for Covid violations

An attorney for the church, Mariah Gondeiro, said they were going to appeal the ruling.

Joshua Young North Carolina

A church in San Jose, California, Calvary Chapel, has been ordered to pay $1.2 million in fined by a judge because it held large religious services during Covid and did not mandate its attendees to wear masks during the pandemic, specifically the time between November 2020 and June 2021, which was in defiance of mask-wearing rules imposed by Santa Clara County.

According to the Associated Press, on April 7, Superior Court Judge Evette D. Pennypacker said in her ruling, "It should appear clear to all — regardless of religious affiliation — that wearing a mask while worshiping one’s god and communing with other congregants is a simple, unobtrusive, giving way to protect others while still exercising your right to religious freedom."

An attorney for the church, Mariah Gondeiro, said the church is going to appeal the ruling. Prior to Judge Pennypacker's decision the church had been mired in several legal battles. When the county first imposed the mandate, the church sued and argued that such an order was a violation of their religious freedom. 

According to local news, the church, which has a 600 person capacity, did shut down in March of 2020. It reopened on May 31, 2020 with no capacity limitation, which the county mandated at the time. The church and its leadership were then found in contempt of court and were fined for violation of limitations on indoor public gatherings. That decision was later reversed by a state appellate court, which noted that the policies were more strict for religious services during Covid than secular institutions such as grocery stores.

The remaining issue was the county seeking fines over the mask mandate.

James Williams, the attorney for the county, said the court "once again saw through Calvary’s unsupported claims and found them meritles."

"The county’s response to the pandemic, including the health officer's public health orders and enforcement against entities that refused to follow the law, saved thousands of lives and resulted in one of the lowest death rates of any community in the United States," Williams added.

Speaking to Fox News in August 2022, Gondeiro and Pastor Mike McClure said the church was "needed more today than ever."


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