Yesterday WND posted an article about California Governor Newsom’s lockdown of churches during the coronavirus.
The article reports:
Just as California Gov. Gavin Newsom was being ordered to pay $1.35 million for the legal fees of a church whose members sued him over his coronavirus-related lockdown orders, another fight has erupted over the same problem.
…The case that just was settled was brought by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena, whose leaders were “threatened with daily criminal charges” for staying open and claiming constitutional protection for their actions.
The case went to the Supreme Court where the justices decided 6-3 that the church could allow larger crowds.
The other, and continuing, fight concerns Santa Clara’s war against Calvary Chapel San Jose.
Most recently, a decision denied the county’s demand that it be allowed to see the church’s financial information.
Now both sides have submitted a letter to a judge hearing the case asking for guidance on the looming fight.
Santa Clara County is insisting on access to “Calvary’s sources of revenue, loans, and budgets, claiming these requests are relevant to determine how much Calvary ‘profited’ during the pandemic,” according to a statement from Advocates for Faith & Freedom, which is working on the case.
The article notes:
The county already had sent “two threatening letters” to the church’s bank, which “coerced the bank to temporarily sever the relationship.”
“The first letter informed the bank that Pastor (Mike) McClure had been held in contempt of court and that he and the church were facing fines and sanctions of over $1 million. The second letter was to inform the bank that Santa Clara County Superior Court had set a contempt hearing and that the county would seek further fines and sanctions against the church. The letters made no mention of an appeals process, that the church was challenging the constitutionality of the fines, or the recent Supreme Court decisions vindicating California churches,” the legal team explained.
The article concludes:
The church charges that the county’s goal is to assess “excessive and burdensome fines” against the church.
“The county falsely equates a church to a commercial enterprise, revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of a church’s distinct purpose and unique legal protections,” the letter said. “Unlike a business, churches do not function to earn a profit.”
The church has not claimed it lacks funds to pay the county’s fines; it alleges the fines “are altogether illegal or, at best, the amount of the fines is excessive considering the nature of the offense and the fact that it was the county, not the Calvary, that broke the law.”
The county claims the church “profited” during the pandemic and so its revenue is pertinent to “the fines.”
Unfortunately the taxpayers of California will be the ones who are hurt by this action. They will pay the legal fees for the county. The county (or the state) has no business looking into the finances of a church. If a private citizen wants to do that, I suspect they could–most churches are fairly transparent about their finances. However, it is not a county or state matter.