Calif. pastor moves worship outdoors after county fines church $112K for indoor services
County says it has no plans to forgive fines
The pastor of a 3,000-seat California church said he will stop fighting Santa Clara County and hold services in the church parking lot as per local COVID-19 guidelines after fines rose to over $112,000. The county said it will not forgive the fines.
Jack Trieber, the pastor of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, has chosen to obey the county’s directives banning indoor services, according to ABC7News.
The church was being fined $5,000 for every service it held as well as fines for other violations such as singing.
ABC7News reports that Trieber told his congregation in an outdoor meeting this week that senators told him they had given President Donald Trump the pastor's personal phone number and if he would be willing to receive a call from the White House. But the pastor said he didn’t want to take that course of action.
Trieber also reportedly said he has put on hold a campaign that was aimed at flooding local government offices with one million emails from supporters. “I don’t wish anything evil to happen with authorities. Tonight was the right decision to move out here,” he was quoted as saying.
County counsel James Williams told The Mercury News that banning indoor services was "essential" to the community's safety. “The reality that churches and other religious institutions across our county were successfully holding outdoor services, drive-in services, remote services — and have been — just completely undermines the notion that they needed to have an indoor gathering and create that huge risk of danger,” he said.
The county had filed a lawsuit against the church for its ongoing violations of COVID-19 orders, according to Trieber. After prayer, fasting and counsel, the pastor said, "I have felt led of God not to resist the lawsuit."
"The county has dropped their lawsuit based upon us moving our service outdoors," he told the congregation last weekend. "To me, that’s a victory."
While he has faced reactions that he is a coward for backing down and doesn't know how long he will have to hold services outdoors, he said he will continue to preach outside and "do what God commanded me to do just like I did inside that building."
Despite the restrictions on services and fines, he encouraged the congregation not to send any "vicious" email or be unkind to county health officials, arguing, "That’s not your purpose as a Christian."
In an earlier video message shared on Facebook, the pastor resisted the bans, warning, “If we don’t stop it here ... it’s going to sweep all over the United States of America. Government cannot take away our freedom. You cannot take our right to assemble.”
He had also asked the county to remove all fines and refrain from imposing future fines on the church. “To do this to a church ... California preachers, we have rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caesar, and we have rendered unto God through our tithes and offerings, which is His.”
The pastor revealed that when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a total prohibition on religious worship services in some counties in March, his church ceased its in-person worship services, K4 through 12 Christian school, college, bus ministry, jail ministry, public school ministry, nursing home ministry, door-to-door visitation, hospital visitation, children’s ministries and Sunday School.
“But I’m in charge of the spiritual health of the people in this city and in this area,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do it for 45 years. Though health is [of the] utmost importance, spiritual health is supreme. Because we’ve been locked out in this county of churches, suicide is up, domestic violence, addiction is up, homelessness is up, alcoholism is up. We need to get back to worshiping God. I am commanded to worship God.”