A Baptist church in California that is meeting despite coronavirus lockdown restrictions is pleading with their county government to relent after the fines leveled against them have racked up to nearly $60,000.
North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, California, made headlines two weeks ago when senior pastor Jack Trieber released a viral video on Facebook asking Santa Clara County to “back off.” The video, which garnered millions of views, explained that his church was fined $5,000 for holding a morning service and $5,000 for an evening service during which congregants sang.
As The Daily Wire reported, 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.
North Valley Baptist Church’s associate pastor Justin Cooper laid out their situation in an interview with The Daily Wire, explaining how the church was at first compliant with public health orders until they dragged out indefinitely.
“So, as you know, it’s been six months going on,” Cooper said. “After 14 weeks, we decided to come back into our building.” Cooper went on to explain how the county has continued to hound them to the point that there’s “over 13 or 14 different pieces of paper taped to the entrances to the facilities that the county continues to post.”
Cooper said that Santa Clara County, whose public health officials show up and then quickly disappear during each Sunday morning service, has started charging his church “$5,000 per day — not days that we meet, but just days that we exist.”
The county’s rationale for fining the church, Cooper said, is that the church has allegedly not submitted a COVID-19 protocol, which would necessitate that they not hold services.
Santa Clara County did not respond to a request for comment.
Cooper said that despite the pressure from the county, their congregation is resilient. “The amazing thing about it is the spirit of our church and services has actually improved,” he said.
Even though the pandemic has been hard on their congregation and even cost some of them their jobs, Cooper said, “It seems like the spirit of our services have gone up.” They have seen visitors travel from hours away to attend their services, which Cooper says are conspicuously patriotic. “It’s really strengthened us as a church, I believe, and we’re very unified right now in this decision to go forward.”
Cooper said they are fighting because they fear that the discrimination against houses of worship in California will soon fan out nationwide. “We believe that what happens here will swing across the country,” he said. “So that’s why we’re still willing to take our stand here. 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.”
North Valley Baptist Church is not the only congregation in California to resist the state’s lockdown mandates. Grace Community Church, pastored by John MacArthur, has been wrangling in court with Los Angeles County after MacArthur and the church elders issued a statement in July explaining why they were going to resume in-person assembly.
“We cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings,” MacArthur and the elders said in part. “Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”