‘Alarming’: Lawyer For California Church Responds After Million Dollar COVID Fine Handed Down
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 8: A supporter of Calvary Chapel San Jose saves an American flag outside of Santa Clara Superior Court in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.
Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images.

A lawyer representing a California church recently ordered to pay $1.2 million in COVID fines responded to the ruling this week, saying that the case has major First Amendment ramifications.

Mariah Gondeiro, a lawyer with Advocates for Faith and Freedom representing Calvary Chapel San Jose, told The Daily Wire on Tuesday that she believed the church had a solid case to appeal the fines and that the public should be disturbed by the treatment of the church by the county. 

“This case should alarm the public, that this is what happens when you have unchecked power. This is what it can lead to. It can lead to an individual or individuals doing whatever they can to maintain power, and to enforce their rules even if their rules go against the constitution,” she said, describing the situation as “alarming.”

The comments followed a decision from Superior Court Judge Evette Pennypacker ordering the church to pay $1.2 million in fines after it did not follow COVID restrictions put in place by Santa Clara County, requirements the church said violated its religious freedom. 

“This county has been very vengeful. It isn’t about health and safety because the evidence shows that they can’t trace anything to the church,” she added. “They are trying to make a statement that no one will ever disobey their orders again.”

The county said the orders were aimed at public health and did not target religious institutions. “It’s the County’s job to take care of its residents and protect the public health,” Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams said. “Calvary’s arguments have been rejected at almost every turn. We are gratified that the Court once again saw through Calvary’s unsupported claims and found them meritless.”

The ruling is the latest in the battle between the county and the church, which began after the church was fined starting in November 2020 and up to June 2021 when it did not follow the county’s restrictions and challenged the rules in court. The church was fined over masks, social distancing, and hosting large gatherings. 


Gondeiro expects the case to be heard by a federal appeals court and was confident in the church’s case. Other churches in the Golden State have also gone to court over related issues, with churches in the San Diego area and Los Angeles County picking up legal victories. 

“This is much bigger than Pastor Mike [McClure] and this church,” Gondeiro said. “This is government overreach at its finest, and if we don’t hold this county accountable the implications will be far and wide.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘Alarming’: Lawyer For California Church Responds After Million Dollar COVID Fine Handed Down