by Mary Margaret Olohan
California Pastor Rob McCoy says the thousands of people who attend services at his church in violation of California coronavirus restrictions are not only coming to worship — they are coming to exercise their liberties.
The pastor discussed action that authorities have taken against him and Godspeak Calvary Chapel in a Thursday interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation. The conversation came after the County of Ventura sought an additional restraining order after Godspeak Calvary Chapel continued to hold worship services despite an initial emergency restraining order issued August 7.
“They’re just upset that we’re not following their protocol,” McCoy told the DCNF.
“All of us are sick of it in the community,” he added. “We’ve lost our businesses.”
McCoy formerly served as a city councilman in Thousand Oaks, but resigned when Governor Gavin Newsom made clear that he was not backing down on the determination that churches were nonessential.
“As an elected official I am in conflict and thus must tender my resignation from the council,” the pastor wrote in a letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “I have no desire to put our community at risk and will not. … However this is portrayed, please know I am obligated to do this.”
On April 4, Palm Sunday, McCoy said Godspeak Calvary Chapel held services that observed social distancing.
“We hosted communion in the sanctuary that holds 400 people,” he said. “We were the cleanest place in all of California. The night before we cleaned the whole place down, and the media descended on us, like we were going to be killing the entire community.”
Newsom issued new guidelines in late May allowing houses of worship to open if these institutions limited attendance to 25% capacity or to 100 attendees.
But the California governor walked back these re-opening plans in July with an order mandating that restaurants, bars, churches, fitness centers, hair salons, and barber shops must be closed in 30 of the hardest hit counties in California.
The California Department of Health clarified to the DCNF at the time that indoor religious services in the state have been suspended with no definite end date.
McCoy told the DCNF that his church has continued to hold church services and stopped social distancing and wearing masks when they perceived that Newsom was allowing protests to go on while banning religious services.
The pastor’s decision to carry on with worship came despite California’s coronavirus restrictions — and despite an emergency temporary restraining order issued against McCoy Friday by Ventura County. A court hearing for the restraining order is currently scheduled for Aug. 31, according to CBS News.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco granted the restraining order, which requires the church to cease holding indoor services, to move services outside, to wear masks, and to socially distance, CBS News reports.
The county also sought an additional restraining order against the church after Godspeak Calvary Chapel continued worship services Sunday, a request which the judge denied. This additional restraining order attempted to authorize the Sheriff of Ventura County to take any reasonable action to shut down the church, according to a press release from the church’s legal representation.
After the initial temporary restraining order was issued, McCoy posted an update noting that the church would continue to hold services but warning that those who attended the services might be cited by authorities, CBS reports.
Godspeak Calvary Chapel held its services Sunday, and no arrests were made though police were present at the scene, according to the publication. The church’s website currently says that three services will be held on Sunday.
McCoy told the DCNF that the services have been attended by thousands, many of whom do not normally go to church but now wish to stand up for their liberties.
“On Sunday when we opened the doors of the church, a very large segment of the attendees were people who never go to church,” McCoy told the DCNF. “They had come to this place because their Liberty had dried up and they went further upstream to find its source. And they realized that God is the author of Liberty and they want it back.”
“Instead, they came to church,” he continued. “It’s a great place to worship. We had skaters and surfers because they had lost their beaches and their skate parks have been filled with sand.”
Both McCoy and the chapel are represented by the nonprofit legal organization Tyler & Bursch, LLP and Advocates for Faith & Freedom.
“I never thought I would see the day where local officials give testimony in the American court system that has the ring of a communist inquisition more than a fair judicial process where the defendant is allowed to prepare and present his evidence,” Attorney Robert Tyler said in a statement.
“We believe that basic principles of due process requires a trial on evidence before a single Governor can suspend constitutional liberties for such an extended period of time.”
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Mary Margaret Olohan is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.