Within less than one month of legal tensions, North Valley Baptist Church and Santa Clara County and have reached a stalemate. Both having dropped their lawsuits against each other, with the church agreeing to hold worship services outside with attendees sitting inside their cars on church property.
On Friday, August 21, the Santa Clara County Public Health Office posted a cease and desist letter on North Valley Baptist Church’s doors, fining it a total of $27,750 for nine days worth of fines initially in the amount of $250, increasing to $5,000 per day, for “failing to submit Social Distancing Protocol to County Public Health Department.”
The church was also fined $5,000 per service held each Sunday, totaling $25,000 for just five services. The notice posted on the outside of the church, states it was being fined for conducting an “unlawful indoor gathering,”
for “failing to comply with required social distancing practices, 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 during services.” If the church did not correct the violations, the county said it would pursue civil or criminal prosecution, with additional penalties, fees and costs.”
In March, when Governor Gavin Newsom initially prohibited all religious worship services, regardless of the number attending or whether social distancing and personal hygiene practices were followed, including in-home worship services and bible studies, North Valley Baptist Church initially complied. It stopped its in-person worship services, K4-12 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.
“We wanted to err on the side of safety so we shut down everything. And we closed down as we were instructed,” its pastor, Dr. Jack Trieber said.
But when the state’s directives and stated goals kept changing, and “the spread of the coronavirus” of the number of people who tested positive accounted for 1.9 percent of the state’s 40 million people, and the state was directly targeting houses of worship, the church resumed holding indoor services.
According to the state’s COVID-19 database, the number of people who have died who tested positive for the coronavirus is 14,987. The number of confirmed positive cases is 778,400.
As a percentage of the population these numbers represent .03 and 1.9 percent.
Of the 778,400 positive cases, based on the data reported by the state, the state has a 98.1 percent coronavirus recovery rate.
Of the 778,400 positive cases, the 14,987 reported deaths represent a 1.9 percent death rate, although this number is most likely likely significantly lower. The positive cases do not accurately reflective the health of the entire population. There are more people who have antibodies built up as a result of having gotten the virus and recovered from it who have not been tested or counted in this total.
The number of deaths reported are also inaccurate, as the state will not publish comorbidity data, which distinguishes between mortalities listed as “from” versus “with” the coronavirus. It also has not posted false positive testing data. Nor will it publish recovery data statewide or by county.
The CDC reported that roughly 6 percent of all reported deaths nationwide were solely attributed to the coronavirus. The overwhelming majority—94 percent—of reported coronavirus deaths noted the deceased died “with the virus” not from the virus. The cause of death was heart disease, respiratory failure, or other illnesses, listing the patient having also have tested positive for the virus.
In some cases, even suicides were reported dying “with the coronavirus” even though the coronavirus did not cause the suicide. The prohibition to be able to earn a living or have one’s business shut down by government mandates, facing losing their life’s work and their homes, caused such great despair that individuals thought their only recourse was to take their own lives.
The church’s pastor, Dr. Jack Trieber initially argued September 1 that the government works for the people and read from the Bill of Rights.
“The first three words of the Constitution are ‘We the People,’” he said. “Not we the government. The government works for the people. We have the right to assemble before God. Not only do we have a constitutional right, we have a biblical command.”
By September 13, Trieber reversed course. From a podium speaking to his congregation who were partially assembled sitting inside their cars in the church’s parking lot, Trieber said the lawsuit had forced him to make a difficult decision about the church’s future. “After a great deal of prayer, of fasting and counsel,” Trieber said he has felt led not to resist the lawsuit, citing Exodus 14:14. (“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”)
The county has since dropped its lawsuit based on the church moving its services outdoors. If he is outside preaching in October, Thanksgiving or even Christmas, Trieber said, he “is going to preach outside just as God has commanded him to do.”
North Valley Baptist Church also dropped its lawsuit against the county, Trieber said, adding that he is praying for Santa Clara County officials every day.