California County Violates Church’s Constitutional Right, Demands It Turn Over Financial Records For Review

Calvary Chapel San Jose
Calvary Chapel San Jose pastor Mike McClure preaching to congregation |

Calvary Chapel San Jose is again battling California's Santa Clara County in court, as the governing party demands access to the church's financial records.

Santa Clara County is demanding access to "Calvary's sources of revenue, loans, and budgets," says Advocates for Faith & Freedom in a statement, as per WND. The pro-life legal group is currently defending the church from the lawsuit.

The county had previously issued "two threatening letters" to the church's bank, forcing it to "temporarily sever the relationship." After receiving information on the appeals, the bank discontinued its action against the church.

Church authorities indicated in a joint statement with the county that the county's demands were unlawful, thus the church did not abide with the limitations.

"Receiving the Notice of Default amidst a global pandemic caused me great despair and worry because I thought the county was going to put a lien on our church's property," stated Pastor Mike McClure.

"This was particularly distressing because we were providing a lifeline to scores of congregants suffering from fear, depression, and anxiety at a frequency far above anything I'd seen in my thirty years of pastoring," McClure adds.

Both parties have written a letter to the court handling the case, requesting direction on the impending battle. The county is requesting financial details from the church.

According to the county, the church "profited" during the epidemic, and hence its money is relevant to "the fines."

"Unlike a business, churches do not function to earn a profit," the church said. It further said that the county's purpose is to levy "excessive and burdensome fines" on the church.

"Not only is this far-fetched conspiracy unfounded, producing financial information to support this theory would clearly be outside the scope of this litigation," the church added.

What's with "the fines?"

According to Hoodline, the Calvary Chapel in San Jose "owes more than $2 million in fines" for blatantly disobeying Santa Clara County's months-long prohibition on indoor meetings.

 On top of Pastor Mike McClure continuing to provide indoor worship services that attract hundreds of people every Sunday, the county has recently been incensed by his actions when NBC Bay Area learned the church had received $340,400 in Paycheck Protection Program subsidies from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The forgivable loan is part of the Cares Act, which was passed last year as a comprehensive relief package to assist small businesses and NGOs in weathering the pandemic.

In reaction to the NBC's investigation, Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams remarked, "It's disappointing that on one hand, [Calvary Chapel] would choose to willfully put people's safety at risk in this time of crisis in our community, and on the other hand, [seek] taxpayer support for their operation."

Calvary Chapel, however, was but one of over 5,000 religious groups in California to benefit from the PPP program.

The SBA has also given tens of thousands of dollars to at least three additional religious institutions in the Bay Area.

The San Francisco Archdiocese received $1876,500, St. Mary's Cathedral earned $320,405, and NBC Bay Area's Spring Hills community church got $186,300.

"I don't want to take that money," McClure told NBC Bay Area. "That's your money, my money, our grandkids' money. I don't agree with that. But at the same time, I've got to pay all of our employees. And it's not the church that took it, it was our school."

Even though the Supreme Court declared that churches had the freedom to perform services inside with restricted capacity and without singing or shouting, Hoodline reports that Santa Clara County is still the only county in the state that does not allow indoor worship sessions -- now, even after the Supreme Court ordered California to lift its COVID-19 restrictions on churches and demanded the government pay a total of $1.3 million in legal fees to some congregations.  

A federal judge declined the county's request to access Calvary Chapel's financial records, the Advocates for Faith & Freedom said, before adding a scathing remark on the county's actions:

"Santa Clara County has requested discovery documents of Calvary's sources of revenue, loans, and budgets, claiming these requests are relevant to determine how much Calvary "profited" during the pandemic. Perhaps the same questions should be asked of the County. They implemented a punitive fine system that undoubtedly caused their pocketbooks to swell off the hard-earned labor of small businesses."