A Baptist church in California relented to the county government’s demand that they cease indoor assembly after the fines against them piled up to more than $112,000.
North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, California, near San Jose, has been fighting with Santa Clara County for weeks after initially refusing to comply with their mandate to stop congregating in their church building, which seats approximately 3,000. Despite senior pastor Jack Trieber’s pleas for them to “back off,” the government fines for gathering indoors and singing have continued into six figures, and the church has finally agreed to meet in the parking lot, according to ABC7News.
County counsel James Williams told The Mercury News, “The reality that churches and other religious institutions across our county were successfully holding outdoor services, drive-in services, remote services — and have been — just completely undermines the notion that they needed to have an indoor gathering and create that huge risk of danger.”
Though the county has stopped fining the congregation now that they are complying, there are reportedly no plans for their exorbitant fines to be forgiven. Trieber told his congregation that he declined to get President Donald Trump involved, though senators had given the president Trieber’s personal cell number. The pastor also called off a campaign that would have flooded county inboxes with more than 1 million e-mails.
“I don’t wish anything evil to happen with authorities,” he said, noting that he “felt led of God” to stop resisting, according to The Christian Post. “Tonight was the right decision to move out here.”
In a viral video released on Facebook in August, Trieber pleaded with state and county government to leave them alone after the church was fined $10,000 for two Sunday services during which, Trieber said, congregants still maintained social distancing.
Santa Clara County public health officials, who had slipped into one of their services to observe them, described the singing as “unlawful activity.” According to a four-page notice that was plastered on the church’s door, their group worship was an offense that they must “immediately cease.” The government also warned that “failure to do so will result in enforcement action by the county.”
Since then, the county’s fines against North Valley Baptist Church have continued to pile up to the point that they are being fined $5,000 per day regardless of whether they meet in person. In a subsequent video that has also gone viral, Trieber said, “The government’s done it again. They have ratcheted this thing up. They just posted more signs on our building.”
“Government: it must stop. It cannot continue this way,” Trieber continued. Appealing to the Bill of Rights, the pastor argued that the county government is overstepping its legal boundaries.
In a recent interview with The Daily Wire, associate pastor Justin Cooper explained how they fear the clampdown on churches in California will eventually spread nationwide. “I believe it’s a religious liberty battle and the future of our country, as far as we know it — as far as church is concerned — is definitely at stake,” he said.