California Governor Gavin Newsom and county leaders are escalating the state’s war on church worship services, dragging pastors into court and demanding thousands of dollars in fines for illegally singing and holding indoor worship services.
This stand-off is getting closer to a religious hot war, with some of the same tactics being used, such as sending “agents” behind enemy lines to “spy” on worship services.
The state is armed with Newsom’s no-worship order and subpoenas. One county even nailed a complaint letter to a church door. Even Martin Luther would see the folly of that move.
In California during the Wuhan coronavirus, you can shop, eat out, riot, loot, and protest. But there are tough constraints on church worship. Churches can feed the hungry, but parishioners can’t take communion. Churches can house the homeless, but can’t sit six feet apart in the same pew with a neighbor.
Same Governor But Different Rules for Rioters and Worshipers
Liberty Counsel, a public service law firm, represents two churches being fined and penalized for opening their doors to worship. Founder Mat Staver says Newsom’s worship ban is clearly unconstitutional.
People can be housed overnight, but cannot hold a short worship service, Bible study, or meet for prayer. People can receive counseling to find work but cannot be counseled on finding eternal life.
The same governor who encourages mass protests, bans all worship and is now fining churches for their right to assemble and worship. The same governor who says the church can meet for secular services, bans the church from having religious worship. This unconstitutional hostility against religious worship must end.
Newsom has issued a rule against singing and chanting – even during worship in private homes. Then, he outlawed church worship.
Church pastors say enough is enough.
The pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Ventura County, Rob McCoy, was in court on Friday and fined $3,000 for holding three socially-distanced worship services each Sunday on August 9 and 16.
McCoy and John and Jane Does from one to 1000 – his parishioners – were ordered by a judge earlier this month to cease holding worship services. They defied his orders.
— Urbanfishingpolecigars.com (@FrankGerechter) August 24, 2020
McCoy was ready to go to jail on Sunday if need be.
Senator Ted Cruz sent a supportive tweet, letting California leaders know he’s watching.
Are you willing to go to jail for the Constitution? Pastor Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Church is! Tomorrow morning, he’ll stand before a CA judge who’s holding Rob in contempt. Thx for standing up for the flock and We the People! The bullies won’t win. We are with you, Pastor.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 20, 2020
County Sends in Spies to Santa Clara Church Spies
In Santa Clara, county officers sent in agents to spy on North Valley Baptist Church, according to documents the county gave to the court. That church has been fined $10,000 for illegally singing in two worship services. Singing.
Santa Clara County taped a four-page letter to the front door of the church announcing that the county was displeased with the singing.
Pray for North Valley Baptist Church, Pastor Jack Trieber, Santa Clara, CA.
The actual cease and desist letter was posted to their doors.
I fully support Pastor Trieber as he plans to conduct services tomorrow.
“We ought to obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29) pic.twitter.com/2DgabchKXa
— ByronFoxx (@EvangelistFoxx) August 23, 2020
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In the letter, Santa Clara County accused the socially-distanced parishioners of… singing.
North Valley Baptist is failing to prevent those attending, performing and speaking at North Valley Baptist’s services from singing. This activity is unlawful. The county understands that singing is an intimate and meaningful component of religious worship. However, public health experts have also determined that singing together in close proximity and without face coverings transmits virus particles further in the air than breathing or speaking quietly. The county demands that North Valley Baptist immediately cease the activities listed above and fully comply with the Risk Reduction Order, the Gatherings Directive, the State July 13 Order and the State guidance. Failure to do so will result in enforcement action by the county.
Pastor Jack Trieber issued a statement Monday after being fined, saying he had obeyed the initial orders that the church and all of its ministries be shut down.
Church Pastor: I Beg You, Please Stop
The church runs a school, a college, a bus service, jail and prison ministries, a rest home ministry, Sunday school, and many other outreach efforts.
Here is a video statement from Jack Trieber, Pastor of North Valley Baptist Church, on the "Cease and Desist" letter and the $10,000 in fines from Santa Clara County for church services yesterday. We greatly appreciate all the prayers and support!https://t.co/Ly9mOuElZz
— NV Baptist Church (@nvbc_org) August 24, 2020
Treiber appealed to the local health director and the governor, saying that they are “out of bounds” in issuing the no-worship and no-singing orders.
You can’t make laws against the church. We have the right to worship. But more than the right to worship under the Constitution, we have a command from God.
In the edict that came to us, we have tried to obey what has been written, the protocol. One of the things that was amazing that we were cited for was we’re not permitted to sing. So, Sunday morning a fine of $5,000 and Sunday night a fine of $5,000; they’re ratcheting everything up.
This is America.
To think a person can say you can’t sing in church! You cannot preach without a mask on. You cannot communicate with people.
This is out of bounds. The fines are out of bounds.
The pastor discussed how the area is not a hot spot for coronavirus and that meeting outside, as the county allows him to do with 60 people, won’t work because of the bad air quality from the fires and the heat.
Church Pastor: You’re in Charge of Health, I’m in Charge of Spiritual Health
He had a message for the Santa Clara County health director.
We have a situation where the county health director said now I’m in charge of the health of the people, and God bless you, you’re not elected, but God bless you. I appreciate you. But I’m in charge of the spiritual health of the people of this city and this area and I’ve been trying to do it for 45 years.
[…] I plead with you, back off.
If you arrest me this week, and I know that is a possibility, that’s not my desire. My desire is to preach God’s word.
I beg you, please stop.
I beg you, look at the stats. Look at the science, Mr. Governor. There’s not a pandemic here. Yes, let’s be safe. Let’s be careful. But this area needs the church.
Pastors from all over the world have been praying and encouraging the Santa Clara church.
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Justin Cooper, the North Valley assistant pastor and professor at Golden State Baptist College, told students attending this fall that they should forget wishing they were born at another time in history.
God has you and I here for such a time as this. Often people say I wish I were born and then they give a date. I wish I lived back whenever it was. God wanted you here right now. You’re here on purpose, for a purpose and so am I.
Justin Cooper, a professor at Golden State Baptist College and assistant pastor at North Valley Baptist Church, gives an inspiring message in this video to students. Register today at https://t.co/v2GgaAvm8b pic.twitter.com/FWHY6CY4Sl
— Golden State Baptist (@gsbc) August 19, 2020
In Los Angeles County on Monday, megachurch Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church went to court for a fourth time to fight the governor’s ban on worship. The result of that hearing isn’t known yet.
Church Pastor Declares That County Rules Are ‘Nonsensical’
Previously, a judge negated a restraining order against the church, but LA County appealed in order to make him comply.
MacArthur issued a declaration on Monday, saying it’s clear that the county thinks it’s OK to let “congregants to gather to worship the Lord in parking lots, in parks, or perhaps beaches—but never in any church. From Grace Community Church’s perspective, this is nonsensical, and we view it as a direct ban on engaging in the worship which our faith requires.”
The Thomas More Society, a religious liberty law organization, represents Grace Community Chuch.
The church’s travails have captured the attention of the national media, including the satirical Babylon Bee.
Gavin Newsom Sneaks Into Grace Community Church At Night To Steal All The Hymnals https://t.co/hpcLmTbkJU
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) August 16, 2020
Earlier in the month, the pastor greeted his flock by welcoming them to a “peaceful protest.”