Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story 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.
A San Jose church Thursday evening held an indoor Christmas Eve service despite public health and court orders against it, as well as fines that are stacking up with each violation.
During his sermon, Pastor Mike McClure drew a parallel to Julius Caesar.
"That's what Caesar ultimately wanted, he wanted to be worshiped, much like government today," he said. "But only God can be worshiped, and only God is worthy of our praise."
McClure did not respond to requests for an interview.
Worshipping with him was Tim Glass, head pastor of Calvary Chapel Manteca.
"Each and every person here, not just the senior pastor, but each and every single person in here says, 'Hey, this is important enough to me and my faith.' And to go out and to know, 'Hey, I don't think there's a risk here,'" Glass said.
Glass said he wanted to show support for McClure, even though Glass said he's holding his services in Manteca in a tent outside his church.
McClure already has been slapped with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after defying the county's health order by holding indoor services with hundreds in attendance, many of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing.
Santa Clara County health officials have pleaded with the church to cancel services due to packed intensive care units and rapid infection rates across the county, the Bay Area and the state. Earlier this month, a judge agreed with the county and ordered the church to halt indoor services.
County health officials are afraid an event such as Thursday night's could become a super spreader that has the potential to sicken and even kill a lot of people.
"COVID is a silent killer," county Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. "There will be silent chains of transmission until someone is severely ill and requires hospitalization and dies."
Even with all the sanctions and court losses, McClure continued to defy the order, saying God's word is "a bigger law." His attorneys, who planned to appeal the injunction, continue to question the constitutionality of the county's health order.
"The orders are unconstitutional because, as the Supreme Court affirmed, you can’t treat religious services differently than essential businesses," attorney Mariah Gondeiro said.
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.