Church hit with almost $2 million in fines continues to hold indoor services

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Health and safety orders clash with freedom of religious assembly KTVU's Jesse Gary reports.

After a Supreme Court ruling that California cannot just ban indoor church services, a quiet revolt is building in that state against the idea that local officials can just stamp out the simple, life-affirming, community-strengthening action of attending worship services.

Santa Clara County, for example, issued a health order that bans gathering for church indoors. At least one house of worship there, Calvary Chapel in San Jose, is continuing to hold indoor services on Sundays even in the face of massive financial penalties. The church now faces nearly $2 million in fines for disregarding COVID “guidelines” such as wearing masks and not getting near other people.

Across California, other churches also opened their doors to worshippers on Feb. 7, after the state revised guidelines for houses of worship in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted a COVID-inspired ban on indoor services.

Members of Calvary in San Jose told FOX KVTU that the church has done nothing wrong, pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“We have the right to assembly. We have the right to go to church. It’s in the Constitution and there’s nothing wrong with it,” a parishioner named Sammy said. “There’s nothing going on in the church that was proven it was bad. Nothing is bad when you go to church to become a good person.”

Santa Clara County has countered that its ban isn’t affected by the Supreme Court ruling, since it doesn’t differentiate between churches and any other type of indoor gathering.

In a notable legal victory against California’s COVID-19 health orders, the high court issued rulings on Feb. 5 in two cases in which churches argued the restrictions violated religious liberties. The justices said that California cannot continue its ban on indoor church services, but it can limit attendance to 25 percent of a building’s capacity and restrict singing inside.

The court was responding to emergency requests to halt the restrictions, which came from Pasadena-based Harvest Rock and Harvest International Ministry, which has more than 160 churches across the state, along with South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista.

Che Ahn, Harvest Rock’s senior pastor, told his congregation that the church would also defy the ban on singing.

“Fifty percent of worship is singing. We’re gonna sing no matter what,” Ahn said at the beginning of the church’s Feb. 7 service.

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