Churches Win Battle To Re-open

Churches Win Battle To Re-open

Churches Win Battle To Re-open

Supreme Court rejects county’s continued ban on indoor worship.

Story by Christmas Beeler

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 6-3 vote on Friday, Feb. 26 that Santa Clara County, CA, must allow indoor worship services up to 20% capacity effective immediately. That county had refused to allow churches to open their doors despite a ruling by the highest court on Feb. 5 that overturned the state’s ban on religious services, mandating that they be allowed to meet at 25% capacity.

Within two days of the Feb. 5 ruling in favor of churches, Santa Clara County issued a statement that baffled church leaders saying they still could not meet. The only county in the state to do so, Santa Clara officials justified their defiance to the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling by claiming that their COVID-19 policies were “fundamentally different” from the state’s because they treated all indoor gatherings similarly. A few days later, a circuit court overruled them but then recanted when the county set church attendance caps at 20%. Soon after, Santa Clara County returned to their earlier policy that churches could not worship indoors at all.

Having had enough, five churches joined together to file a suit with the U.S. Supreme Court to force Santa Clara County officials to allow churches to open their doors after almost a year of closure. One Calvary Chapel pastor in that county has been standing for religious freedom from the beginning, drawing crowds to support him as well as critics. Pastor Mike McClure of Calvary Christian Fellowship of San Jose, CA, has been ministering to the community and refused to shut his doors. For that, his church was one of the most heavily fined by county’s officials, who charged them $5,000 for each Sunday service and some small prayer services—totaling nearly $2 million in fines.

Pastor Mike reported that people in the San Jose community were grateful to have a place to worship during the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic. “Every week we are seeing so many people’s lives being touched and transformed. God is bringing a revival,” he said recently. “People are desperate for the answers to life, and true hope is only offered in the church. The antidote for sin is the blood of Christ.” He added, “In Psalm 22 we learn that God dwells in the praises of His people. We gather because that is what we are commanded to do. It’s more than essential.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom had ignored Supreme Court rulings in November and December that allowed churches to begin meeting across the country, as well as a rebuke from the U.S. Assistant Attorney General on May 19. Then head of the federal Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Eric S. Dreiband wrote a letter to Newsom that his plan showed “unequal treatment of faith communities,” recommending that some form of in-person worship should be allowed. The five churches that challenged the county and sued Gov. Newsom are: Gateway City Church and The Spectrum Church in San Jose; The Home Church and Orchard Community Church in Campbell; and Trinity Bible Church in Morgan Hill. The Diocese of San Jose also worked with Becket Law to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.



All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

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