California appeals court dismisses COVID-19 penalty for church

San J0SE, Calif. , A California church that defied safety rules during the COVID-19 pandemic by holding large religious services would not have to pay a fine of nearly $200,000, a state appeals court has ruled.

Calvary Chapel San Jose and its clergy were held in contempt of court and fined for violating state and county limits on indoor public gatherings in 2020 and 2021. The rules were intended to prevent the spread through close contracting the virus, which has caused more than 10 million confirmed cases and more than 93,500 deaths since the pandemic began in mid-2020, according to the state public. Health figures.

But on Monday, California’s 6th District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that cited a May 2020 decision of the US Supreme Court in February 2021 to ban indoor worship services in counties by Governor Gavin Newsom. Where the COVID-19 violation was taking place. freedom of religion.

The decision of a newly conservative majority court came less than a year after the High Court justified the ban on health and safety grounds.

The appellate court noted that the restrictions on indoor gatherings also applied to secular gatherings, but were stricter for worship services than for secular activities such as visiting grocery stores.

The ruling is “a great victory for the sake of liberty and demonstrates the justification of the courage shown by this church” and its pastor, the church’s lawyer Robert Tyler, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Despite the ruling, Santa Clara County said it would continue to seek $2.3 million in penalties against the church for violating other COVID-19 rules that were not affected by the decision, such as services in late 2020. A face mask is required during

“Calvary did not dispute the fact of its many more serious violations during the height of the pandemic and before vaccination was available,” a county statement said. “We will continue to hold Calvary accountable for putting the health and safety of our community at risk.”

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