A Superior Court of California judge in Santa Clara County ruled that Calvary Chapel San Jose must pay $1.2 million in fines, including interest, for violating public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. Judge Evette Pennypacker made the ruling last Friday citing the church’s “egregious conduct.”
According to KTVU, The judge rejected the church’s argument that the public health officer’s orders prevented it from exercising its religious freedom or violated the Constitution.
The church routinely held large, indoor unmasked services during the coronavirus pandemic despite the health orders that applied to every entity in the county. The Office of the County Counsel on Wednesday issued a statement on the 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.
Unfortunately, Defendants repeatedly refused to model, much less, enforce this gesture. Instead, they repeatedly flouted their refusal to comply with the Public Health Orders and urged others to do so ‘who cares what the cost,’ including death.”
The Superior Court’s order comes after a federal court largely dismissed Calvary’s claims against the County. The remainder of the case was stayed, allowing the State court to rule, county counsel said.