SANTA CLARA—Santa Clara Baptist Church, a South Bay church which is defying government shelter-in-place orders by continuing to hold indoor services, has been fined $102,500. 

News crews were filming on Sunday, September 6, when Santa Clara County workers plastered the door of the church with a cease and desist letter.

On the North Valley Baptist Church website, a video titled “Update from Pastor Trieber about the Cease & Desist and Fines,” Pastor Trieber defends his decision to continue to hold in-person services. He made several references to the US Constitution in the video with a patriotic tune playing.

”It cannot continue this way. We have the right to assemble before God. Not only do we have a constitutional right, we have a Biblical command. America, will you please help us? The government cannot take away our freedom. We are not closing down this church.”

Pastor Trieber preaches at the pulpit, September 6, 2020.
(Photo: North Valley Baptist Church video archive)

Referring to the county cease and desist letters, he said, “They have just posted more signs on our building.” Reading one of the letters, he said the claim that church congregants were not socially distancing while gathering indoors was “not true.” 

Pastor Trieber described the nature of the mounting fines. “They fine us $250; the next day $500; the next day $1,000; the next day $2,000; the next day $4,000; and now the last four days, they have just given us $5,000 a day. Every single day we do not give them a protocol. It must stop.”

County of Santa Clara cease and desist letters
(Photo: North Valley Baptist Church video, “Update from Pastor Trieber about the Cease & Desist and Fines.”)

Dan Noyes from ABC 7 asked “more than a dozen members” about how they perceived the risk of contracting COVID-19 during indoor services. They “all declined.”

In a video interview with the Santa Clara County Counsel, James Williams, he was asked why it was important that churches do not hold indoor services. He responded, “One of the key principles that we have learned so far is that outdoors is safer than indoors.”

California churches have been holding outdoor services during the mandated indoor closure. Patty Rhea, a regular attendant of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, which has been holding online services, shared via text that she had been attending outdoor in-person meetings elsewhere: “I’ve been going to Star of the Sea Church for outdoor services because God is the most important thing to me at this point in my life.”

There were Christians who expressed that online meetings are not in accordance with the Bible. Influential California Pastor Mac Arthur of Grace Community Church expressed those sentiments in a featured announcement in late August. When Patty Rhea was asked about her attendance at St. Ignatius Church, she responded, “They only do online mass, which is not in line with true fellowship.”

During the pandemic, there have been COVID outbreaks at churches continuing to hold indoor meetings, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

In a video sermon from August 30, 2020, Pastor Trieber warned his audience to take precautions. He told his audience if they had certain symptoms they should not go to church in person. “Please stay home and make sure that you’re not infectious.”