SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A California church that had previously been fined $10,000 for holding a morning and evening indoor worship service with singing in violation of county COVID regulations is now facing more than $52,000 in fines with additional $5,000 per service fines possible for every indoor gathering it continues to hold.
In an update posted to YouTube on Tuesday, Jack Trieber of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara showed screenshots of paperwork that was taped to the doors of the church, totaling the fines at $52,750.
The documents cited “unlawful indoor gathering, failing to comply with required social distancing practices, not requiring congregants or church attendees to face coverings while attending, performing or speaking at indoor worship services; and permitting congregants or church service attendees to sing during services.”
A fine was leveled for the morning and evening services of Aug. 23 and 30, as well as the Wednesday night service of Aug. 26.
The church was also cited for “failure to submit [a] social distancing protocol to [the] County Public Health Department.” The initial fine was $250 for the first day of violation, but it doubled to $500 the next day, then to $1000, then to $4,000 and $5,000 a day.
“This has to stop. This has to cease,” Trieber said in the video. “You have given us, government, cease and desist [orders]. I’m asking you on this day [to] cease and desist. This is harassment to do this to a church. … You cannot take away out right to assemble.”
As previously reported, Trieber released a video statement on Aug. 24 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 noted that there was no social distancing protocol in place.
“North Valley Baptist is failing to prevent those attending, performing and speaking at North Valley Baptist’s services from singing,” the letter 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.”
Fines at that time totaled $10,000 — $5,000 each for the morning and evening service, and a $250 fine for the lack of a social distancing protocol was also proposed with a 48-hour grace period.
As the church continued to hold indoor services — and with singing — and did not submit a social distancing protocol to the County, another notice with fines was posted to the door. Officials decided to continue doubling the protocol fine until it reached $5,000 a day.
Trieber said he is not going to discontinue holding indoor services. Officials have stated that North Valley Baptist can meet outside with a maximum of 60 people, but the pastor contends that he doesn’t know how to accommodate the thousands attending his church if he can only have 60 meet at a time.
“We are not closing down this church,” he stated in his latest video. “I don’t know what the consequences on your part are going to be, but I know that America does not want this to happen in her country and at this church.”