Calvary Chapel San Jose (CCSJ) perseverance is paying off in the face of attempts by state and local officials to shut them down during the COVID-19 pandemic. They just won a large legal victory last week. The California Court of Appeals concluded that “the temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are facially unconstitutional,” based on the Supreme Court’s recent guidance.
State and local officials did all they could to shut down CCSJ due to Covid-19, yet CCSJ Pastor Mike McClure and Pastor Carson Atherly showed that their reverence for God is greater than that to any man, and they remained open. Choosing to reopen in May of 2020 eventually led to a temporary restraining order and injunction against Pastor McClure and Pastor Atherly obtained by the County of Santa Clara and Health Officer Sarah Cody through County Counsel James William.
The temporary restraining order and injunction against CCSJ pastors was for violating the Covid-19 health orders. Governor Gavin Newsom’s Covid-19 health orders restricted in-person church services, and consequently prevented the gathering of the saints as instructed by scripture. CCSJ continued to hold services after the November 2020 restraining order, which led to the County asking the Santa Clara County Superior Court on December 17, 2020 to hold CCSJ and the pastors in contempt of court, as well as asking for monetary sanctions to be ordered against CCSJ and Pastor McClure.
Despite the charges against him Pastor McClure chose to do what was best for CCSJ and remained open. The Bible calls for the Church in Hebrews 10:25 to “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. Pastor McClure simply chose to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) and keep CCSJ open in a time when so many were searching for a sense of community.
The persecution against Pastor McClure and his Church continued. On February 16, 2021, the superior court once again held Pastor McClure and CCSJ in contempt of the court and issued monetary sanctions. CCSJ defied the court as they believed that the order for contempt was unconstitutional.
By this point the CCSJ and its pastors were fined more than $200,000 in sanctions. Remaining strong, the pastors feared God over man trusting the Lord would bless their faithfulness and trusting that their actions would be protected by the First Amendment.
Their faithfulness and trust that God will vindicate His people showed on Monday August 15, 2022 when the California Court of Appeal reversed the monetary sanctions, the contempt, and the injunction.
“For the reasons stated below, we conclude that the temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are facially unconstitutional pursuant to the recent guidance of the United States Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion in the context of public health orders that impact religious practice (see, e.g., Tandon v. Newsom (2021) 593 U.S. __ [141 S. Ct. 1294] (Tandon).) As the underlying orders which Calvary Chapel violated are void and unenforceable, we will annul the orders of contempt in their entirety and reverse the orders to pay monetary sanctions.”
CCSJ and the pastors are represented by lawyers at Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting constitutional and religious liberty in the courts. In a press release from Advocates for Faith and Freedom, the President, Robert Tyler wrote, “This is a significant victory for churches and pastors across this country. We are honored to represent pastors and churches who are willing to take the heat in defense of liberty because it benefits everyone.”
Pastor Mike McClure also commented on their victory, “I thank God that our actions have been justified by the Court of Appeal. We are here to help the hurting, save the lost, and worship God without governmental intrusion.”
CCSJ remained faithful all whilst the governor’s office, county officials, lower judges, and the state occupational safety department tirelessly tried to shut them down.
Unfortunately, the fight is not over just yet. The County of Santa Clara is still seeking to enforce about $2.8 million in fines against CCSJ for defying the county health orders. This will be litigated in federal court. Based on the state Court of Appeal ruling, Advocates for Faith and Freedom attorney’s are expecting complete victory in the federal court as well.
While Governor Newsom clung to one of the nation’s strictest lockdowns resulting in nearly a year long ban on indoor worship in California, CCSJ clung to God. CCSJ chose to meet together for worship, in obedience to the Word of God. Because of this, CCSJ a year ago became the most persecuted church in America.
The Bible is clear in Deuteronomy 36:35 that “the LORD will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants. . .” and this became true for CCSJ during both last Monday’s Court of Appeal ruling and as CCSJ has quadrupled to 3,000 people attending services. People are hungry for the Word of God and for leaders who are willing to stand up against government officials who seek to silence their preaching.