By Michael Hernandez
SAN JOSE—A settlement hearing in the two-year saga between Santa Clara County and Calvary Chapel is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 13 as Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody continues her battle for $4.3 million in fines against the church that would not follow her mandates on a mask mandate (May-October, 2020), ignored social distancing rules, and refused to place limits on how many of its congregants could attend services.
The legal case has generated national news with such outlets as The Citizens Journal, The Epoch Times, Courthouse News Service, the California Family Council, CBN News, and the Family Research Council highlighting this First Amendment battle.
Reporter Natalie Hanson of Courthouse News Service, wrote Oct. 7 that Santa Clara County instituted some of the “most aggressive and restrictive responses to COVID in the nation” with the county public health director bragging she was “the first to recommend lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. The county was one of the last in California to rescind its indoor mask mandate, doing so almost three weeks after the state.”
Sophia Lorey, the California Family Council, wrote Aug. 22 that “while Governor Gavin Newsom clung to one of the nation’s strictest lockdowns resulting in nearly a year-long ban on indoor worship in California, Calvary Chapel San Jose clung to God and chose to meet together for worship, in obedience to the Word of God. Because of this …they became the most persecuted church in America.”
Joshua Arnold, The Washington Stand, the Family Research Council’s news outlet, wrote Aug. 16: “The governor’s office, count officials, lower judges, and even the state occupational safety department got involved in the effort to shut down this church.”
At issue in the Calvary San Jose case, is a Bangladesh study that at least three experts (Dr. Robert Malone, Norman Fenton, and Benjamin Recht) have criticized as not valid in reference to Dr. Cody’s demands in 2020 to mask-up and have said that Santa Clara County has gone too far in their actions against the church which included a letter from County attorney James Williams sent to the church’s lenders—Cass Commercial Bank in St. Louis, Missouri.
In the Epoch Times article written by Brad Jones and featured in The Epoch Times (Oct 5-11 Bay Area and Beyond newspaper edition), Pastor Mike McClure said: “Our county has said openly that the Constitution doesn’t apply here. When we had the Supreme Court rule in our favor, they disregarded it. They didn’t care.”
Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney with Advocates for Faith and Freedom representing the church said in the same article: “No other county in the state has levied such ‘enormous fines’ against a church. It is very extreme…This is such an abuse of power at this point, and what they’re doing is unconstitutional.”
The Calvary Chapel San Jose website shares that Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement and Pastor of Calvary Chapel Cost Mesa graciously loaned Calvary Community Church (which became Calvary Chapel San Jose) money to pay their debts. He then asked Pastor Don McClure in 1991 to move his family from Redlands to San Jose and take over leadership of the struggling church. Pastor Don McClure was instrumental in raising up pastors and establishing Calvary Chapels in Fremont, Santa Cruz, Mountain View, Gilroy and San Mateo
Mike McClure (the son of Pastor Don McClure) became the Senior Pastor in 2003 when he was 27 years old. The San Jose Calvary Christian Fellowship is located on 1175 Hillsdale Avenue.
(Editor’s Note: To read Citizens Journal reporting on this legal saga as it unfolded in early 2021 go to three articles written by Michael Hernandez):
- 21: https://www.citizensjournal.us/advocates-for-faith-and-freedom-attorney-for-calvary-chapel-san-jose-im-sad-to-see-religious-liberty-disregarded/
To view the 18-page legal brief go to:
An overview of the legal arguments made are:
- Defendants Cannot be Held in Contempt Because Such an Order Would Exceed This Court’s Jurisdiction.
- The Court Orders are Unconstitutional in Light of Diocese of Brooklyn.
- Strict Scrutiny is Applicable to the State and County Health Orders and the Court Orders.
- The Plaintiffs’ Continued Insistence That Their Expert Testimony Justifies Discrimination Against Religious Worship Services Was Likewise Argued to the Supreme Court and Plainly Rejected.
- Court-Ordered Fines, Sanctions, and Attorney’s Fees Would be an Abuse of Discretion and Unjust.
- The Preliminary Injunction is Vague, Overbroad and Therefore Unenforceable
- 28: https://www.citizensjournal.us/judge-finds-calvary-chapel-san-jose-pastors-in-contempt-of-court-suspends-personal-fees-contingent-on-social-distancing-plan/
- 1: https://www.citizensjournal.us/breaking-san-jose-calvary-chapel-lender-we-have-no-intention-of-calling-their-loan/
(Michael Hernandez, co-founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted at [email protected] and is editor of “America: The End and Our Hope”.)