VENTURA — The pastor of a Newbury Park church has vowed to continue holding indoor worship in defiance of Coronavirus health orders after a judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the church from doing so.
“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,” Rob McCoy said Friday, hours after the judge prohibited Godspeak Calvary Chapel from holding indoor worship services.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco cited “an immediate threat to public health and safety due to the 2019 novel Coronavirus” in issuing the temporary restraining order.
The order will be in place until another hearing is held on Aug. 21.
The county and its health officer sued the church after McCoy repeatedly defied health orders designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Services for as many as 200 worshipers offered “singing, hugging, no masks,” in McCoy’s words.
The suit was filed last week, a day after the county Board of Supervisors authorized court actions to enforce the health orders.
The suit said permitting the church to keep holding indoor services could harm the public, “including hospitalizations and deaths.”
“On a scale of one to 10 of the most immediate irreparable harm possible, this is a 10,” Guasco said at the hearing. “It doesn’t get much more immediate or irreparable than the threat that a lot of people are going to spread a contagious and deadly disease.”
But McCoy has argued that the risk of spreading COVID-19 from its services is small and there hasn’t been a confirmed case among parishioners.
Lawyers for the church also have argued that the health orders are overreach that are trumped by the constitutional right to freedom of expression and worship.