Leaders With SJ Church That Defied Health, Court Orders Face Contempt Charges

Calvary Chapel San Jose.
NBC Bay Area

Church leaders with Calvary Chapel San Jose were in court Thursday for an ongoing contempt of court trial connected to services the church held in defiance of public health and court orders.

Calvary pastors Mike McClure and Carson Atherley have been charged with contempt of court after defying a court order to halt their indoor services for hundreds of people during a time when such large indoor gatherings were banned by Santa Clara County because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

NBC Bay Area
Calvary Chapel San Jose pastor Mike McClure held an indoor Christmas Eve service in defiance of health orders. (Dec. 24, 2020)

"It's sad to see the state in which our country is where you have the state fighting against the church or the church against the state. What we need to remember is that what made America great was our trust in God," McClure said during a news conference after the court proceedings.

The pastors have been fined up to $30,000 each and face possible jail time, their attorneys said Thursday. That's on top of hundreds of thousands in fines McClure racked up since the county first imposed the public health order restricting indoor religious services.

The church continued to hold weekly indoor services, sometimes with hundreds in attendance and many without masks, for the duration of the county order. That included a well-publicized service on Christmas Eve.

The county's order does not entirely ban religious services. From October to December, it placed a limit on capacity for indoor gatherings, and since Dec. 4, it has allowed outdoor religious services for up to 100 people, according to the county website.

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story (from Dec. 24, 2020) we reported that church leaders told us their faith protects them from coronavirus. However, attorneys for the church say they never said that and they do believe coronavirus is real.

Contact Us