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This week, Ventura County, California, sued a church in Thousand Oaks, California, for holding no-mask, no-distance indoor services.
“The lawsuit follows the county Board of Supervisors’ vote to use court actions to enforce COVID-19 health orders,” reports The Los Angeles Times. Senior Pastor Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Chapel, who has served as the mayor of Thousand Oaks, described them simply: “Singing, hugging, no masks.”
McCoy was serving as a city council member, but stepped down on April 4 after Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom stated churches were “nonessential.” On April 5, McCoy hosted socially distanced Communion for 10 people at a time; the church soon started to livestream their services. After the massive protests following the death of George Floyd, the church resumed normal services inside the church.
Dr. Robert Levin, a Ventura County public health officer who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, asserted, “It is only a matter of time — if it has not already happened — before there is a significant outbreak of COVID-19 cases among the attendees.”
The lawsuit states that the “chapel and McCoy, in public statements, have represented that they will continue to violate the State Stay at Home Order and the Local Health Order by conducting, participating in, and attending indoor worship services at the Property, by failing to comply with the mandate of the State Public Health Officer to wear face coverings and practice physical distancing, and by permitting, allowing, and encouraging others to violate these mandates. McCoy has stated that he is ‘willing to go to jail’ and is ‘willing for them to take our building’ rather than to comply with the State Stay at Home Order and the Local Health Order.”
The lawsuit continues by claiming that the church holding normal services “will cause and continue to cause great and irreparable injury to the general public, including all persons within Ventura County, by creating a significant risk of further community spread of COVID-19, including hospitalizations and deaths, which in turn is likely to result in continued and further restrictions on businesses and other operations and activities within Ventura County, detrimentally affecting the quality of life of the entire community.”
Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas watched the church’s livestream; he claimed, “Instead, attendees were in close proximity to one another, seated side by side in pews, for the entirety of the service. The church appeared to be at capacity.”
McCoy stated, “We would be the first to be masked and distanced, and willingly so, if this were meriting it, and it doesn’t. This isn’t a health issue, it’s an ideological issue.” He asserted that the current number of coronavirus cases in the county “aren’t going to change” and don’t merit “shuttering our schools and destroying our businesses.”
County Public Information Officer Ashley Bautista stated, “COVID-19 continues to spread from person to person and at gatherings. It is very important to follow the state’s guidance, so that the most vulnerable in our community can be spared from the disease. Churches and other groups play a valuable role in the wellness of our county. We encourage people to stay connected, but to do so safely.”