Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Court Reverses Sanctions Imposed On Church For Violating COVID Orders

In People v. Calvary Chapel, San Jose, (CA App., Aug. 15, 2022), a California state appellate court annulled contempt orders imposed by trial courts and reversed trial court imposition of monetary sanctions which resulted from a church's refusal to comply with state COVID public health orders. The order restricted the holding and conduct of public gatherings. The court said in part:

[W]e conclude that the temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are facially unconstitutional pursuant to the recent guidance of the United States Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion in the context of public health orders that impact religious practice (see, e.g., Tandon v. Newsom (2021) ....) As the underlying orders which Calvary Chapel violated are void and unenforceable, we will annul the orders of contempt in their entirety and reverse the orders to pay monetary sanctions.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom issued a press release announcing the decision and reporting that Santa Clara County is still attempting to enforce $2.8 million in fines imposed for violation of county health orders.