California church forced to pay $1.2 million for defying COVID-19 rules

(Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 1:10 PM – Friday, April 14, 2023

A judge has ordered a San Jose, California, church that disregarded safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic by having sizable, un-masked services to pay a whopping $1.2 million in fines.


Calvary Chapel in San Jose was penalized last week for disobeying the mask-wearing regulations in Santa Clara County between November 2020 and June 2021.

Attorney Mariah Gondeiro has told the San Jose Mercury News that the church will appeal.

Several sizable California churches, including Calvary, disregarded local and state laws requiring attendees wear masks and social distance in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, during what was deemed as its deadliest phase. This resulted in a complicated network of court decisions and legal challenges.

The county was sued by Calvary Chapel, which claimed the health orders were against its religious freedom. A number of courts have made decisions that favored the church or the county.

In the past, the church and its pastors were fined and held in contempt of court for going against the restrictions on indoor public gatherings. However, a state appellate court overturned those judgments last year, finding that the limitations on indoor worship services were tighter than those on secular (non-religious) activities like going to the grocery store.

However, the county persisted in pursuing fines for disregarding the rules regarding mask use at Calvary Chapel.

“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,” said Superior Court Judge Evette D. Pennypacker.

According to Judge Pennypacker, the church disregarded health regulations “and urged others to do so ‘who cares what the cost,’ including death.”

James Williams, the county attorney, claimed that the decision demonstrated that the court “once again saw through Calvary’s unsupported claims and found them meritless.”

“The county’s response to the pandemic, including the health officer’s public health orders and enforcement against entities that refused to follow the law, saved thousands of lives and resulted in one of the lowest death rates of any community in the United States,” Williams said.

According to state public health services, more than 101,000 Californians have died from COVID-19. Yet, since the peak of the virus’s spread, the death and infection rates have decreased and Governor Gavin Newsom declared the state’s COVID-19 emergency to be over a few months ago.

It is also worth mentioning that some hospital workers and doctors were reportedly instructed to classify patients’ deaths as “COVID-19 related” if the patient had tested positive with the virus a short time before or after passing away. This knowledge has caused some confusion and disputes regarding the legitimacy and accuracy of the official COVID-19 death numbers.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) website also admits that, “Hospitals and health systems are eligible to receive higher payments for complex COVID-19-related treatment under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act – that much is true.”

On Friday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) eliminated the need for mandated coronavirus vaccinations and masking in high-risk areas, such as hospitals and prisons.

There is no mention of the hefty fine anywhere on the church’s social media accounts or website.

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