The California Supreme Court denied a petition last week by Santa Clara County asking Calvary Chapel San Jose to pay $217,500 in fines for violating COVID-19 restrictions during the height of the pandemic.
“We are pleased the California Supreme Court chose not to take up the matter,” Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney representing Calvary Chapel, said. “We are very confident in a federal lawsuit where we seek to hold the county accountable for their unconstitutional public health orders.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the church and its pastors were held in contempt in court and were fined in 2020 and 2021 for defying COVID-19 restrictions on in-person worship gatherings.
In August this year, California’s 6th Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled in favor of the church.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, the appellate court cited Supreme Court decisions made in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo (2020) and Tandon v. Newsom (2021), in which the court ruled that state-level restrictions on in-person gatherings at houses of worship during COVID-19 were unconstitutional.
Additionally, last week’s ruling by the state’s highest court decertified the August ruling, meaning that legal challengers will be unable to use it in the future.
“We’re very pleased that the 6th District’s decision has been de-published,” Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said. “It validates our concerns that it was a legally erroneous decision.”
Gondiero, who works for the Advocates For Faith & Freedom, said that the state’s Court ruling reflects rulings in favor of religious freedom as seen by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think we have a very religious-friendly Supreme Court,” Gondiero explained, according to East Bay Times. “And we’re starting to see that trickle down across the country. When it comes to religious freedoms, they know where the Supreme Court stands.”
Meanwhile, Williams says that last week’s decision was both a partial victory and a partial loss.
“I’m certainly disappointed they didn’t review the petition,” he explained. “But in ordering the decision to be de-published, it can no longer be cited. It will no longer affect rule of law. I think the California Supreme Court sent that message.”