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March 14, 2023

Santa Clara County Still Seeking $2.87M From Church

The crime? Going to church during COVID lockdowns.

When the country locked down in March 2020, little could we imagine what sort of tyranny was about to be unleashed. California became particularly nasty with its mask, social distancing, and vaccine mandates on top of draconian lockdowns. Perhaps the most notorious and arbitrary of the rules was that people were allowed to go to the liquor store but not to church. In fact, churches were a particular target for the COVID health department zombies.

Calvary Church San Jose was one of the churches targeted by law enforcement.

Black Lives Matter riots? Nah. Homelessness and debris cluttering this city? Nah. Churches and people who continued to worship were the real criminals according to the Santa Clara County law enforcement. Specifically, the health department used the Business Compliance Unit to surveil church congregants and keep track of COVID mandate violations.

According to David Zweig, an independent reporter:

On the first visit they entered the premises, observed the congregants, and then left to write up a Notice of Violation for masking, gathering, singing, and distancing violations. When the officers returned shortly after to deliver the Notice they were denied entry and told to get off the property. From then forward, each Sunday the enforcement officers were locked out of Calvary. But this did not stop them.

Barred from the premises, the Unit struck an agreement with the law-abiding church next door to Calvary for the officers to set up camp there for their operations. Enforcement officers, often working in pairs, conducted dozens of stakeouts, spying on Calvary staff and members by peering at them through a chainlink fence from the adjacent property.

So, not only did the county betray this church by denying its religious freedom rights, but a neighboring “law-abiding” church let government goons use its property to set up surveillance and spy on Calvary. These inspectors often worked in pairs and conducted stakeouts on the “disobedient” church. It’s important to note that these enforcers cost $219 an hour.

This was not the worst of it, however. The enforcers apparently used a geofence to track cellular traffic in and out of the church. They even hired a professor at Stanford Law to analyze the data and aggregate the daily attendance of people at Calvary. This cost Santa Clara County taxpayers $800 an hour. This data shows that church attendance exploded during the pandemic, with a peak of 1,700 people daily in early 2021.

Between the “violations” the health department was able to surveil via neighbor church stakeouts and the data collected via geofence about daily attendees, Santa Clara County demanded Calvary Church pay for all the fines it had accumulated. Calvary refused.

That’s when the county sued the church to the tune of $2.87 million.

This case has been ongoing since December 2020 and is expected to be decided this spring.

It would be very surprising and unconstitutional if the authoritarians got their way. For precedent’s sake, Grace Community Church (Pastor John McArthur’s church) has already won a similar case in LA County and was in fact awarded $800,000 in settlement. In February 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s unconstitutional ban on church gatherings.

Santa Clara County’s case shouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Hopefully come spring, that prediction will come to fruition.

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