San Jose church continues defying COVID-19 orders with plans for an indoor Christmas Eve service

Pastor McClure has said in the past that he has no plans to shut down his services and that he is willing to go to jail for it.

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Thursday, December 24, 2020
SJ church to hold Christmas Eve service, faces over $1M in fines
A San Jose church is continuing to defy COVID-19 public health orders with plans to host an indoor Christmas Eve service, even as fines and court orders pile up.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The concern as we head into Christmas is that a lot of people aren't listening to the COVID-19 recommendations and that includes one San Jose church that continues to defy health orders, even as fines and court orders pile up.

"What I'll say about Calvary Church -- it's beyond disappointing, the situation there is shameful," said James Williams, counsel for Santa Clara County, "They are facing over a million dollars in fines, they've been held in contempt of court, we've gone back in for additional contempt proceedings not just against the church but against the specific individuals who are aiding and abetting these violations."

RELATED: SJ church repeatedly fined for defying health order received $340K in taxpayer money

One of those individuals -- Mike McClure, one of the lead pastors at Calvary Chapel. The church has been in a battle with Santa Clara County for five months now for holding indoor services with an average attendance of about 700 people, in defiance of public health orders.

"They're in their right to exercise their first amendment rights to gather and pray and celebrate Christmas, that is their constitutional right," said Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney for Tyler & Bursch, the firm representing Calvary Chapel.

WATCH: San Jose church fighting back against county as pastor faces fines, jail time for holding indoor services

Several pastors made impassioned pleas Friday to keep their churches open to those suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite legal action from Santa Clara County after one church held indoor gatherings in violation of public health orders.

Earlier this week, a federal court judge upheld Governor Newsom's stay-at-home orders including the ban on indoor religious services.

In his ruling, District Judge Jesus Bernal of Riverside said, "The state has a compelling interest in curbing the spread of what is now the world's deadliest infectious disease," adding, "The constitution is not a suicide pact."

"What I would say to the leaders of that church and across the country, when people follow you, you have an obligation to do what's best for them," said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

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Dozens of people, most of them not wearing masks, showed up for a second caroling event hosted by actor Kirk Cameron in Thousand Oaks, as the region deals with a dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Pastor McClure has said in the past that he has no plans to shut down his services and that he is willing to go to jail for it. So far, the church has not paid any fines.

"We're not going anywhere, the fines will be collected and they will pay. We will continue to see this through and we will continue to vigorously pursue enforcement," Williams said, adding that the public should not mistake the lengthy legal process for a lack of consequence.

Williams would not comment on whether there are plans to arrest pastor McClure if he holds Christmas Eve service, as scheduled.

RELATED: South Bay church moves services outdoors after racking up $112K in COVID-19 fines

A Santa Clara Co. church that held indoor services, against repeated warnings from officials, racked up $112K in COVID-19 fines. The pastor of North Valley Baptist announced he will no longer fight the county and has since moved his services outdoors.

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