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California appeals courtroom rejects COVID-19 fines for church

A San Jose church that defied security rules throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by holding massive non secular providers received’t need to pay about $200,000 in fines, a state appeals courtroom dominated.

Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastors had been held in contempt of courtroom and fined in 2020 and 2021 for violating state and county limits on indoor public gatherings. The principles had been aimed toward stopping the unfold of the coronavirus by way of shut contact.

However on Monday, California’s sixth District Courtroom of Attraction reversed these decrease courtroom selections, citing a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Courtroom in February 2021 {that a} ban by Gov. Gavin Newsom on indoor worship providers in counties the place COVID-19 was surging violated freedom of faith.

The choice by the excessive courtroom’s new conservative supermajority got here lower than a 12 months after the courtroom beforehand dominated that the ban was justified on well being and security grounds.

The appellate courtroom famous that the restrictions on indoor gatherings additionally utilized to secular gatherings however had been stricter for worship providers than for secular actions similar to going to grocery shops.

The ruling “is a superb win for the sake of liberty and shows the justification for the braveness proven by this church” and its pastors, Robert Tyler, a lawyer for the church, advised the San Francisco Chronicle.

Regardless of the ruling, Santa Clara County mentioned it might proceed to hunt $2.3 million in penalties towards the church for violating different COVID-19 guidelines that weren’t affected by the choice, similar to requiring face masks throughout providers in late 2020.

“Calvary didn’t dispute the actual fact of its quite a few and severe violations throughout the peak of the pandemic and earlier than vaccinations had been accessible,” a county assertion mentioned. “We are going to proceed to carry Calvary accountable for placing our neighborhood’s well being and security in danger.”



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