A California church is under fire from the government for what they say are a host of breaches of the state’s repressive shutdown policies.
The congregation of Orchard Community Church in Campbell, California was holding an outdoor service with another congregation on Reformation Sunday when two non-official officials for the County Health Department pinned a series of compliance docs to their doors after the service, charging that they were violating health orders by their service and would be fined if they didn’t change their wayward ways.
Despite the Church following recommended health protocols by being outdoors, socially distanced, wearing masks, had sanitizer stations set up, and had signage present, they were dinged anyway, with the church receiving 6 violations.
1. Failure to submit online compliance protocol
2. Failure to require face coverings while singing
3. Failure to maintain a list of those in attendance for contact tracing
4-6: Official signage violations
The report states that the Church failed to require the use of face coverings while singing and not properly socially distancing, telling Pastor Todd Burgett “We saw that you had one person without a mask during singing, only 6 ft not 10 ft away.” The pastor notes that only 1 out of 82 people weren’t wearing a mask during one song, but that was enough for the decrepit long arm of the law to curl its talons around the neck of the church and squeeze.
They received three violations for improper signs, with Burgett telling us “We had our own signs, not the county official signage that you can only get if you sign the online compliance protocols – which we decided to do on Monday.” Compliance protocols refer to the plan churches and businesses must submit showing how they will abide by the mandated meeting guidelines.
The most offensive violation to the pastor, however, was the insistence that the church records the names and phone numbers of all members or visiting guests, which the pastor calls “reminiscent of communist-controlled countries.”
I found out yesterday that they are supposed to give two warnings before a citation – this was told to me by a church employee who is working as a church liaison between the county and churches. He sent me a document corroborating that the county promised not to just react to an angry neighbor reporting – but that is what started this issue – a neighbor reporting us 3-4 weeks ago for meeting inside (which we were – air quality was dangerous in light of forest fires) but said that we were not wearing masks or social distancing – which we were. They seemed to single us out – nit-picking over details.
Santa Clara County, where the church resides, is one of the top 5 strictest counties in the country. County health director, Dr. Sarah Cody was the first in the country to order a coronavirus lockdown and has been critical of even the small steps Gavin Newson has taken to re-open California. She’s on the record of denoting churches as “not essential” and if she had it her way, they would likely be the very last to open.
Pray for our brothers and sisters at Orchard County Church.