According to a press release from Advocates for Faith & Freedom, Santa Clara County is attempting to classify a local church as a “businesses” and/or “commercial activity” in an effort to extract fines totaling $2.8 million for “holding unlawful indoor gatherings” during the pandemic.

The legal back-and-forth between the county and local church, Calvary Chapel, began back in June of 2020, when Pastor Mike McClure of Calvary Chapel San Jose and Pastor Micaiah Irmler of Southridge Church of San Jose filed a lawsuit against Santa Clara County over the stay-at-home order issued in May of 2020 that effectively banned indoor worship services. Within the June 2020 filed brief, attorneys for the church noted the hypocrisy of the county noting that the right to gather in the thousands and protest was a protected activity – but going to church wasn’t.

Come October of 2020, the county turned around and sued the church. In a December 2020 release from the Santa Clara County Public Health department, it was noted that the suit was filed over the church still having congregants attend services indoor and that a temporary restraining order was placed against the church in November.

Both the church and Pastor McClure were found to be in contempt in December and the church was ordered to pay fines for every instance they had violated the temporary restraining order. Yet, this December ruling came after the Supreme Court already ruled in November that indoor worship services cannot be banned.

Another SCOTUS ruling came in February of 2021, which specifically addressed that California cannot ban indoor worship services. It wasn’t until April that the state finally lifted the limitations in church services after having to face two SCOTUS rulings finding the mandates to be unconstitutional.

Despite the aforementioned, Santa Clara County is trying to still extract the millions in fines against the church that were imposed under unconstitutional mandates – by way of claiming that the church fell within the scope of a “business” or “commercial activity” when violating the previous mandates.

Calvary Chapel is asking the court to dismiss the public nuisance claim that Santa Clara County has raised in their complaint, with the church arguing that the county can’t even find a “connecting element” or a “causative link” to the church’s services and harm done to the general public.

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