A San Jose pastor appeared in court Tuesday afternoon on a contempt charge after he defied Santa Clara County's coronavirus health orders by holding weekly indoor church services for hundreds of people.
Mike McClure, pastor with Calvary Church San Jose, continued to hold indoor services even after the church was slapped with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and was ordered by a judge to halt services, according to the county, who added that the church held such gatherings as recently as Thanksgiving eve.
Many of the attendees for the services reportedly were not wearing masks or social distancing. The county has argued it is a matter of protecting people from a deadly virus.
McClure's hearing was held at Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, where a judge told him "science matters." But all indications are services will go on as scheduled inside Calvary Chapel.
While the proceedings on Tuesday took place, hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse. Only a small handful were wearing masks, which is part of the problem the judge addressed -- the lack of mask wearing during services.
In the end, the judge fined the church $2,500 for every day that it has held services. The pastor's lawyer said the total fines comes to about $55,000. McClure was not arrested for being in contempt, something his lawyer said was an option, but was never brought up in court.
Even with all the sanctions and court losses, the pastor made it clear services will go on.
"I respect the judge and I respect what the law says," McClure said. "But there's a bigger law. I have to get told, you follow God or you follow man. I have to follow what God's word says."
Meanwhile, the church's attorneys, who have said they planned to appeal the injunction, continue to question the constitutionality of the county's health order. Attorneys also said they will be in federal court on Dec. 17 and will ask the feds to take over the case.
"The orders are unconstitutional because, as the Supreme Court affirmed, you can’t treat religious services differently than essential businesses," attorney Mariah Gondeiro said.