A California county has sued a local church that refuses to stop meeting indoors during COVID-19.
On August 5, 2020, Ventura County filed a lawsuit (link) against Godspeak Calvary Chapel Church in Newbury Park, California and Pastor Rob McCoy along with “Does 1-100” (presumably church members or leaders) seeking a temporary restraining order for violating a public health order and “public nuisance” by continuing to meet indoors during COVID-19.
The suit claims that the church violated the state “Stay at Home Order” as well as local health orders by holding indoor services. On July 31, 2020, per the suit, the County sent Pastor McCoy an email reminding him that “only outdoor services with the appropriate social distancing and use of face coverings are allowed at this time.”
On August 2, 2020, the church again met indoors, and Pastor McCoy said he was “willing to go to jail” and “willing for them to take our building” rather than comply with the state and local orders.
In a 28-minute Youtube video released July 25, 2020, Pastor McCoy said that the church leaders were meeting to pray about the situation. “The truth is, Christ has come for liberty. All the governments of the world want to enslave you to get you to kneel and submit. But not in America. For 244 years, we have been the home of the free and the land of the brave. And the sovereign in America is the first three words of the Constitution, ‘We the people.’ And now it’s time to stand. It’s our right. When any government goes after those inalienable rights, it is our right and duty to stand in opposition.”
“Be humble, be bold, be brave, don’t cower, but above all, pray,” he concluded.
In a follow-up video, posted August 5, Pastor McCoy discussed the lawsuit and argued that the “draconian” shutdown measures taken in Ventura County had had a devastating effect on church members and local families, schools, and businesses. “This virus, though contagious, is not deadly with the exception of a small part of our population. And those are the ones we quarantine and protect. You don’t shutter schools. You don’t shutter businesses, and you don’t traumatize our children, and you don’t come after us legally – houses of worship, when you’re releasing prisoners into our county. This needs to stop. We’re done with this.”
“We haven’t had a single case, we’ve looked at the data, we’ve worked continually to be very mindful of the health of our congregation…,” he continued. “You govern by the consent of the governed, and we’re not consenting to this. It is unprecedented, and we’re not budging. It’s time that the American people and the people of Ventura County stand up to this charade.”
The battle lines on the issue of whether churches are subject to state restrictions on gathering are drawn. There are health issues at stake, but also freedom issues as fundamental as the free exercise clause of the Constitution. COVID-19 and the multiple effects are an issue that we will continue to monitor closely as we enter the 6th month of the shutdowns.