Ventura County Church and Pastor Held in Contempt of Court After Violating Public Health Orders, Holding Indoor Church Services

A Ventura County church and its pastor has been found in contempt of court for violating the state's coronavirus health orders by holding indoor worship services.
A judge has imposed a $3,000  fine on Godspeak Calvary Chapel, $500 for each of the six services the church held the last two Sundays.
The County had asked for double that fine plus attorney fees. It didn't get that.
The judge did not penalize the pastor and did not ask the church to pay attorney fees.
Earlier this month, a judge declined to order the closure of a Newbury Park church this week, which was defying orders and holding indoor church services - despite another judge's temporary emergency restraining order. Ventura County took the pastor and a church back to court after the Newbury Park pastor announced his church was going to continue its services indoors in defiance of a judge ruling a temporary emergency restraining order that restricted the church from having services indoors.

According to an LA Times story, "Judge Vincent O’Neill denied the county’s request to shut the church but scheduled a hearing on the contempt claim for Aug. 21."

In the past, Pastor Pastor Rob McCoy has held indoor services on Sunday in defiance of a judge ruling a temporary emergency restraining orde that forbade indoor services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to reporting from Thousand Oaks Acorn, the county is seeking that the Pastor and Godspeak Calvary Chapel be "held in contempt and an order from Judge Matthew Guasco to direct the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to take all “reasonable and necessary” actions to close the church to prevent any further indoor services, county spokesperson Ashley Bautista told the Acorn via email."

There was a court hearing where Godspeak Calvary Chapel will answer why it shouldn't be held in contempt. According to tweets from Thousand Oaks Acord reporter Becca Whitnall earlier this month, there WILL be a contempt hearing held: "The judge says there WILL be a contempt hearing but it will be next week, not this week, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m."

BREAKING: Godspeak Calvary Chapel will be in court tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 11, to answer why the church and its pastor, Rob McCoy, should not be held in contempt of court for violating a temporary restraining order prohibiting the church from hosting indoor services. 1/

— Becca whitnall (@BeccaWhitnall) August 10, 2020

The judge says there WILL be a contempt hearing but it will be next week, not this week, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m,

— Becca whitnall (@BeccaWhitnall) August 11, 2020

A judge in August issued the temporary restraining order and indicated the church could hold services outdoors with masks and physical distancing, according to the LA Times story. 

According to a Los Angeles Times story , "Since May 31, the Newbury Park church has held large, indoor services without masks or social distancing every Sunday. Ventura County health authorities sued Godspeak and McCoy on Wednesday."

Newbury Park’s #GodspeakCalvaryChapel defies judge’s order by holding three packed, indoor services Sunday. No masks, no social distancing. Lots of singing, handshakes and hugs. ⁦

— Emily Valdez KNX 1070 (@EmilyValdezKNX) August 9, 2020

The same day, on Friday Aug. 7, Pastor Rob McCoy addressed the ruling on YouTube saying the judge heard the case in which Ventura County is suing Godspeak Calvary Chapel.

The Ventura County Star on Friday reported that "the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Matthew P. Guasco prohibits Godspeak and McCoy from offering indoor services at the church in Newbury Park or any other indoor venue in the county until Aug. 31." 

"A judge awarded the county this emergency temporary restraining order that prohibits us from meeting in the church, if we do, we are fined. Even though we stated to the judge for us to meet in a park would be impossible. 1,500 people, what park? " McCoy says on YouTube.

"We haven't had one case of COVID-19 in our church. We have been open since May 31," McCoy said on the video on Aug. 7. "As a church, we have been ordered by the judge to remain closed. This building by judge's orders is not be occupied by Rob McCoy.... And I wish it didn't have to come to this. I really do. But we will be violating the judge's order. We will be open this Sunday...We are planning on having services at 9, 11 and 1." 

McCoy said on the Friday video the first 1,000 get a citation, "a misdemeanor." 

"It will be on your record, be mindful of that. And if we continue doing that, there is likely jail. I don't want it to go to that," McCoy says in the video.

McCoy says the church has been getting phone calls from the White House.

"This is going national, we are getting calls from all over the place, how serious this is," McCoy said. "We just want to go to church."