SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Calvary Chapel San Jose held an indoor Christmas Eve candlelight service Thursday night, a direct violation of the state and county public health order as COVID cases surge across the Bay Area.
The church faces more than $1 million in administrative fines for a slew of violations including hosting indoor services without masks for months. According to county officials, so far no fines have been paid.
"I don't know anybody who's died from COVID, not one person has gotten it in our church," said Katy McDowell, who was attending the service. "So maybe people need to turn to God so they don't have to worry about all these things and wear a mask."
McDowell told ABC7 News she believes no one is dying from COVID-19 and the virus is exaggerated.
Stephanie: "What will it take for you to understand people are dying from this virus?"
McDowell: "People are dying from suicide, people are dying from throwing themselves off bridges."
Stephanie: "So you don't see that you're risking peoples' lives?"
McDowell: "I'm not risking lives... I'm saving lives..."
Stephanie: "You're saving lives by not wearing a mask and congregating indoors?"
McDowell: "If you're wearing a mask why are you worried about me?"
McDowell is one of roughly 700 people that attend indoor services at San Jose Calvary church since at least August.
Many other churchgoers also seemed to dismiss any risk of losing their own life or spreading the disease to someone else, instead, they awaited holy salvation.
"If you think this world is it and you are gone and done after this, then protecting this life is everything. For the rest of us, you realize eternity and things greater than that are there," said Tim Glass, who traveled from Manteca to be at the Christmas Eve service.
A man who only gave his first name, Rick, had a similar sentiment.
"God knows I'm going to die and I don't fear death. There have been viruses in the world since the beginning of time and they've taken a lot of lives, but so have guns and so have knives and spoons and clubs," said Rick.
Another man who declined to give his name admitted, he has underlying health conditions, but wasn't worried about attending a service with hundreds of mask-less people.
"I have heart problems. I'm asthmatic. I'm always going to church and always going everywhere. Am I dead? No!" he exclaimed.
"Our goal has always been that they come into compliance with the health orders and they do so now because they are putting people's lives at risk," said James Williams, Santa Clara County Counsel.
The ABC7 I-Team made seven attempts with emails and phone calls over the past five days to reach the church's lead Pastor Mike McClure. We have yet to hear back.
ABC7's Stephanie Sierra knocked on the church doors Friday with hopes to speak with him but was told he "was out of town" and will be "out all week."
Yet, according to the church's live YouTube channel, McClure was present at the candlelight service.
Pastor McClure has previously said he has no intention to shut down his services and that he's even willing to go to jail for it.
"We will continue to pursue enforcement against their lawbreaking activities," said Williams. "We will continue to be active in doing so and there are real consequences."
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