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South Bay Baptist Pastor Fined for Violating Ban on Indoor Church Services

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A Santa Clara pastor posted a video this week after being slapped with $10,000 in fines for violating the health order.

"This is not a hot spot, we were told that thousands were going to die," said North Valley Baptist Church pastor Jack Trieber. "There's not a pandemic here."

In the nine-minute video, Trieber uses the county's death rate to justify opening his doors to his congregation.

As of Thursday, the county reported 16,607 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 240 deaths.

Trieber was fined $5,000 twice over the weekend for holding indoor services and singing, which are both against the state's order. According to the Mercury News, the pastor was fined another $5,000 on Wednesday for, once again, holding indoor services.

"He's using the somewhat low numbers in Santa Clara County, which are the sign of success of their policies, to violate the policies and that's not very good," said Dr. Steven Goodman, Stanford University professor of epidemiology and associate dean of the school of medicine.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered indoor church services to cease and limited the number of people in gatherings as coronavirus cases across the state skyrocketed.

"Absolutely, we have a First Amendment right, you can't make laws against the church, we have the right to worship," Trieber said in his video.

But Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney and CEO of the Center for American Liberty as well as the former chair of the California Republican Party, represents churches and faith leaders in several lawsuits against the state. Dhillon said the order to ban indoor religious services is unconstitutional.

"When you treat people differently when they're in a church setting than you treat them in a commercial establishment, that's discriminatory," said Dhillon. "I think it is very interesting that people are being prosecuted for singing in church, because singing, as we know, is not prohibited by the orders in any other settings."

"I'm a singer. It seems to be singing that puts people at tremendous risk and I noted in the church in Santa Clara, they had a chorus there," said Goodman. "Usually when we track back cases that we can track, we often find they come from large gatherings and the indoor gatherings are by far the most dangerous."

Yet, the pastor said in his video that his parishioners stand six feet apart and wear masks. His wife wrote a letter to their congregation asking them to fill the church Friday for Tieber's birthday.

"I'm not trying to be cruel, I want to be obey authority but authority you overstepped," Tieber said.

He told KPIX that he did not want to sit down for an interview.

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