The leader and parishoners of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, California, defied a judge’s restraining order Sunday that legally barred the church from holding indoor worship services because of coronavirus concerns, according to the Associated Press.
Ventura County health officials sought the restraining order — which, according to the Washington Examiner, was granted Friday — to prevent Godspeak from holding in-person services after learning that the church had been doing so since May 31 and had no plans to stop.
Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco said in his ruling that there should be a “balance between individual liberty and the government’s police power to protect the exercise of individual liberty if it threatens the public welfare and health.”
“The Constitution is not a suicide pact,” Guasco said, the Examiner reported. “The exercise of individual liberties has to be consistent with public health, otherwise the one would cancel out the other.”
Church services continue
“I don’t know what’s going to happen today,” Godspeak Pastor Rob McCoy told worshippers as he opened the first of at least three services on Sunday, as U.S. News & World Report noted. “My desire is that we lift up the name of Christ.”
A livestream of the service showed roughly two dozen worshippers with McCoy and a musician, all without masks. It was not clear whether the parishoners observed social distancing measures, but the assembled worshippers sang to McCoy to mark his Monday birthday, though singing in church remains prohibited in the state.
“Lord, we’re not here to endanger our community. We’re here because the church is essential,” McCoy prayed during the service. He spoke about the lawsuit and said he didn’t know what would happen.
Pastor remains defiant
McCoy previously served as a member of the Thousand Oaks City Council, but he resigned after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared churches to be nonessential, as the Los Angeles Times reported. The pastor was on record as declaring that he was “willing to go to jail” or lose his church building rather than comply with Newsom’s orders, according to the Times.
After the restraining order was issued, McCoy said in an Instagram post that at the time 77 people had died in Ventura County from the virus out of 846,000 total residents, representing a .009% death rate. On the day of the post, only three people received positive results out of 900 completed tests, a positivity rate of 0.3%.
Other services held in recent weeks hosted upwards of 200 attendees and included “singing, hugging, no masks,” McCoy said, according to U.S. News.
Growing numbers of Americans are outraged by the fact that their First Amendment rights are being violated so egregiously in California and elsewhere. To describe churchgoing as akin to a “suicide pact” when the actual death rate from COVID-19 is so low is nothing more than scaremongering and hyperbole of the worst kind.
If Americans don’t stand up against dishonest, politically-motivated restrictions on religious liberty such as this one, the worst is surely yet to come.