SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A Baptist church in California has been fined $10,000 for holding a morning and evening service indoors and for also including singing during those gatherings. The church has been warned that continued violations of the Santa Clara County health order will result in additional $5,000 per occurrence fines.
“North Valley Baptist is failing to prevent those attending, performing and speaking at North Valley Baptist’s services from singing,” the letter from officials read in part.
“The County understands that singing in an intimate and meaningful component of religious worship. However, public health experts have also determined that singing together in close proximity and without face coverings transmits [corona]virus particles further in the air than breathing or speaking quietly.”
Jack Trieber of North Valley Baptist Church released a video statement on Monday explaining that the church had previously complied with directives prohibiting indoor gatherings as the novel coronavirus seemed to be a serious threat.
“I didn’t want to be responsible for seeing people die,” he outlined. “Because it was going to be a hotspot, we obeyed to the letter.”
Trieber said that actual fatalities, however, were nowhere near what they were projected to be in a county of more than one million people, as 225 people died with nearly 100 of those deaths being in nursing homes. Therefore, the church decided to begin holding meetings in the auditorium again but with social distancing and other preventative measures in place.
In response, County officials taped a multiple-page “cease and desist” order to the door, outlining that Trieber was in willful violation of the prohibition on indoor gatherings, as well as singing. It also asserted that there was no social distancing protocol in place.
The church was leveled with two $5K fines for holding the indoor morning and evening services, with no grace period, and a $250 fine for a lack of a social distancing protocol was also proposed with a 48-hour grace period.
“$5,000 fine for holding an unlawful indoor gathering at 10:30 a.m. on August 23, 2020, not requiring congregants or church service attendees to wear face coverings while attending, performing or speaking at indoor worship services and permitting congregants or church service attendees to sing,” the letter read in part. “Be advised that further such violations will result in additional $5,000 fines per occurrence without a grace period.”
Trieber believes, however, that it is not the government’s jurisdiction to make laws against the Church.
“This is America,” he said in the video. “To think that a person can say, ‘You cannot sing in church. You cannot preach without a mask on …'”
The pastor explained that officials have stated that the church can meet outside with a maximum of 60 people, but he did not know how he would accommodate the thousands attending his church if he can only have 60 meet at a time.
“I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m not trying to be a smart aleck. I’m not trying to be cruel. I want to obey authority, but authority overstepped,” Trieber stated, noting that suicides, violence, drug use and alcoholism are on the increase due to the lockdown and that spiritual guidance is needed.
He has consequently pleaded with officials to be merciful and to rescind their order against houses of worship.
“I plead with you: Back off. Open up the spiritual environment of this county immediately,” Trieber said. “I saw my grandkids here yesterday and they were so worried that Papa was going to be arrested. It’s torment to our children in this church. I beg you: Please stop.”
“Yes, let’s be safe. Yes, let’s be careful. But this area needs the Church.”