SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – According to a report from The Gateway Pundit, an appeals court ruled earlier in August that a California church which held in-person services in defiance of lockdown orders in 2020 and 2021 will not have to pay the fines that were previously imposed upon them by the county.
On August 15th, the 6th District Court of Appeals reversed both the fines and a previous ruling of contempt of court from a lower court that were lodged against Calvary Chapel San Jose for holding indoor services during the pandemic that went against previous lockdown orders imposed throughout California.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Calvary Chapel San Jose held services indoors, resulting in accumulated fines of nearly $200,000 for going against state and county limits on indoor public gatherings.
However, California’s 6th District Court of Appeal looked to the Supreme Court’s decision from February of 2021 that found Governor Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person religious services due to the pandemic violated the freedom to practice religion, as outlined in the Constitution.
“For the reasons stated below, we conclude that the temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are facially unconstitutional pursuant to the recent guidance of the United States Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion in the context of public health orders that impact religious practice.”
“As the underlying orders which Calvary Chapel violated are void and unenforceable, we will annul the orders of contempt in their entirety and reverse the orders to pay monetary sanctions.”
In the appellate court’s ruling, it was further noted that while these restrictions on in-person gatherings in California were also extended to secular activities, said restrictions on secular activities (like venturing to the grocery store) were not nearly as strict as the ones imposed on houses of worship.
Robert Tyler, a lawyer for Calvary Chapel San Jose, stated that the appeal court’s ruling “is a great win for the sake of liberty and displays the justification for the courage shown by this church.”
Despite having lost in court, Santa Clara County asserted that they will continue to pursue damages against Calvary Chapel San Jose – they’re now seeking $2.3 million in penalties against the church – claiming they’ll use the courts to garner the damages for violating rules regarding face coverings since the Supreme Court decision didn’t weigh in on those mandates.
A spokesperson for the county released a statement reading, “Calvary did not dispute the fact of its numerous and serious violations during the height of the pandemic and before vaccinations were available. We will continue to hold Calvary accountable for putting our community’s health and safety at risk.”
Mike McClure, one of the two pastors named in the original lawsuit, celebrated the ruling, saying in a released statement, “I thank God that our actions have been justified by the Court of Appeal. We are here to help the hurting, save the lost, and worship God without governmental intrusion.”
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