SAN JOSE, Calif. - A South Bay church that’s repeatedly defied a county health order barring indoor gatherings was back in court on Thursday.
Calvary Chapel San Jose has racked up over $1 million in fines as the county tries to force the place of worship to comply with the health order.
"We know that this is a battle that’s going to be won in prayer," said Carson Atherley, a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel San Jose.
Atherley and senior pastor Mike McClure took the stand Thursday in the contempt case brought against them for continuing to hold indoor church services despite a Santa Clara County health order that prohibits the gatherings to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
"We understand that the coronavirus is real. We understand that people need to be cautious, especially if you’re older than 70. But we have a First Amendment right in this country to gather together, to meet in person, the right to assemble," said Robert Tyler, the attorney representing Calvary Chapel San Jose.
His client, Pastor Mike McClure, told the court that the church has not been contributed to the spread of the virus and that it plays a critical role in helping the community during the pandemic.
"Honestly what we’re trying to do is just help people and minister to our community like the church has always done," McClure said on the steps of the courthouse while speaking to supporters who’d gathered outside for the hearing.
For its part, attorneys for the county content that Calvary Chapel leaders are running afoul of the law and are holding services as a form of protests.
Despite the mounting fines that the church has racked up, the lead pastor shows no signs of stopping the gatherings.
"I’m just asking our representatives our judicial system our county and people let us partner with you, let us help, let us serve the community like we’ve done in the past," McClure said Thursday.