The pastor of a megachurch in California, said this week his church will continue holding in-person services amid the coronavirus pandemic despite facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
While Pastor Jack Trieber, who leads North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, has been adhering to social distancing guidelines, his congregation is facing $5,000 in fines from the county for each in-person service.
“They’ve ratcheted this thing up,” he said in a video posted to Facebook Tuesday, revealing his church is facing a total of $52,750 in fines.
North Valley is facing financial penalties for holding in-person services on Sunday mornings and evenings and Wednesday nights. The county has issued additional fines for alleged social distancing violations, which Trieber said is a bogus charge.
The order given to the church states: “If you do not immediately correct the violations, the county may take additional legal action against you, including civil or criminal prosecution, with additional resulting penalties, fees, and costs.”
“America, this is a serious moment,” explained Trieber. “Government, it must stop. It cannot continue this way.”
The California pastor then directed his words to county officials.
“One, I’m asking you to stop all fines,” he said. “And two, I’m asking you to remove all fines. This is not Caesar’s money; this is God’s money. We have rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and we have rendered unto God through our tithes and offerings, which is His.”
“I’m not threatening at all today,” Trieber continued. “But I’ll tell you this: we are not closing down this church. I hope you get this message. I don’t know what the consequences on your part are gonna be, but I know America does not want this to happen in her country and at this church.”
Echoing the words of fellow California preacher John MacArthur, Trieber described the government’s actions against his church’s in-person services as a form of “harassment.”
And in a statement, Mat Staver of the Liberty Council, the right-leaning religious liberty law firm representing North Valley, called Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) coronavirus-induced restrictions on churches “unconstitutional.”
North Valley, Staver said, is incurring “horrendous fees for simply exercising its First Amendment right to worship.”
“Yet,” he continued, “Gov. Newsom supports tens of thousands of protesters, saying, ‘God bless you. Keep doing it.’ This is wrong, and the governor’s unconstitutional hostility and discrimination against religious worship must end.”
MacArthur, for his part, is facing his own battles. Last week, Los Angeles County officials notified Grace Community Church it would be terminating a parking lot lease the congregation has held since 1975.