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Statement regarding Superior Court Decision in Calvary Church Case

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the Superior Court ruled that the County of Santa Clara lawfully enforced its public health orders to protect residents during a deadly pandemic—and rejected arguments by a local church, Calvary Chapel, that the orders, which applied to every entity in the county, prevented it from exercising its religious freedom or violated the Constitution.  In doing so, the Court ruled that Calvary must pay more than $1.2 million in administrative fines for blatantly violating the County Health Officer’s public health orders.
In its order, the Court emphasized that the County put neutral rules in place to protect the public health, and criticized Calvary’s refusal to follow them, noting:
“It should appear clear to all—regardless of religious affiliation—that wearing a mask while worshiping one’s god and communing with other congregants is a simple, unobtrusive, giving way to protect others while still exercising your right to religious freedom.  Unfortunately, Defendants repeatedly refused to model, much less, enforce this gesture. Instead, they repeatedly flouted their refusal to comply with the Public Health Orders and urged others to do so ‘who cares what the cost,’ including death.”
The County’s lawsuit seeks to hold Calvary accountable for knowingly violating numerous public health orders during the height of the pandemic, even as thousands of entities throughout the county did their part to protect the community.  The Superior Court’s order comes after a federal court largely dismissed Calvary’s claims against the County and stayed the remainder of the case to allow the State court to rule.
“It’s the County’s job to take care of its residents and protect the public health.  The County’s response to the pandemic, including the Health Officer’s public health orders and enforcement against entities that refused to follow the law, saved thousands of lives and resulted in one of the lowest death rates of any community in the United States,” said County Counsel James R. Williams.  “Calvary’s arguments have been rejected at almost every turn.  We are gratified that the Court once again saw through Calvary’s unsupported claims and found them meritless.”
Court Order

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