A California judge has granted a temporary restraining order against Godspeak Calvary Chapel and its Pastor Rob McCoy for holding in-person services in violation of COVID-19 health orders.
Ventura County Superior Court granted the order on Friday requiring McCoy and the church to adhere to statewide and county public health orders stipulating that church services be held outdoors with masks and social distancing or online, according to officials.
On Wednesday, Ventura County officials sued McCoy and his church for holding in-person services of up to 200 people after the church decided to return to normal services. The church had adhered to all social distancing regulations since Palm Sunday but recently decided to lift its restrictions on parishioners.
McCoy announced in a video message Friday that he will continue to hold indoor services. “I wish it didn’t have to come to this, I really do, but we will be violating the judge’s order. … We will be open this Sunday.”
He told church members, “Come to church, and if you’re one of the first thousand, you win a prize. You will get a citation. It will be a misdemeanor. It will go on your record; be mindful of that.”
McCoy named Supervisor Linda Parks instigated the legal action against the church.
“She’s a remarkably resilient woman, but I don’t understand why she would do this and target us,” McCoy said.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday in response to the county’s actions, McCoy said: “Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 today to take action against Godspeak— a day when 900 people were tested for Covid-19 and only three were positive.”
He added: “77 total deaths in a county of 846,000. That means roughly .009%. The death rate in the county of the total population is less than 1/10th of 1%. Positive cases are down, no one under 30 has died in our county; and yet, our schools are shuttered, our business have been decimated, and our houses of worship closed.”
“The government’s cure is proving worse than the virus itself.”
Ventura County’s suit argues that the church’s actions “will cause and continue to cause great and irreparable injury to the general public … including hospitalizations and deaths, which in turn is likely to result in continued and further restrictions on businesses and other operations and activities,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“It is only a matter of time — if it has not already happened — before there is a significant outbreak of COVID-19 cases among the attendees,” wrote the plaintiff, public health officer Dr. Robert Levin, in the suit.
Church members have been “singing, hugging” and not wearing masks, McCoy reportedly told the LA Times.
A former councilman, the pastor said he’s “willing to go to jail” and “willing for [authorities] to take [his] building” but he won’t comply with the health orders to close the church, the suit says.
“We haven’t had one case” of the coronavirus, he said.
The Thousand Oaks Acorn reported in April that McCoy resigned from his position as a councilman hours before he held Palm Sunday communion with members to mark the beginning of Holy Week. All social distancing rules adhered to and communion was served in sealed individual containers. At the time, the church only allowed 10 people at a time to enter the church building to receive communion.
“Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday are critical,” McCoy said in a video announcement to his congregation back in April. “[We are] paralyzed and considered non-essential though we would have liquor stores considered essential, cannabis distribution considered essential.”
“Across the country, abortions are considered essential,” he added. “Is the Church going to sit back and say, ‘Well, we will be relegated to non-essential,’ though we feed people and that is essential physical food?”
California continues to see a surge in coronavirus cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently indefinitely closed churches and other businesses in more than 30 of the state’s 58 counties.
Los Angeles County officials recently threatened Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church with fines and possible arrest for reopening his church in defiance of lockdown orders during the pandemic. Still, MacArthur vowed to continue in-person services.
“We will obey God rather than men,” MacArthur said in a video statement earlier this month. “We’re going to be faithful to the Lord and we’re going to leave the results to Him. Whatever happens is going to be what He allows to happen. But He will be on our side because we will be obedient and faithful to His word.”