Thousand Oaks pastor says church will defy judge’s orders and hold indoor services

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Pastor Rob McCoy, right, gives Communion at an April 5 Palm Sunday service at his Thousand Oaks church, Godspeak Calvary Chapel. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Pastor Rob McCoy, right, gives Communion at an April 5 Palm Sunday service at his Thousand Oaks church, Godspeak Calvary Chapel. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

In defiance of a restraining order, a Thousand Oaks pastor vowed to continue indoor Sunday services at a church that has faced legal action from Ventura County over violations of public health orders.

The county has sued the Godspeak Calvary Chapel, arguing that it threatened public safety by repeatedly holding indoor services with more than 200 people. Officials also alleged that Pastor Rob McCoy and other members have not worn masks and even sometimes “encouraged the violations” of the mandate.

A court on Friday granted a temporary restraining order requiring the church and McCoy to have religious services only outdoors, and with congregants wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, in compliance with guidelines meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

But hours later, the pastor announced the church will defy the orders.

“I wish you 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,” McCoy said in a video posted to social media. “Now, I don’t know what that means as far as who’s gonna stop us, but we’re planning on having services at 9, 11, and 1.”

The pastor described the measures taken by the county as “draconian” and denied that the church has put anyone danger, saying there have been no COVID-19 cases at the church.

“We’re going to keep worshiping God, if they seek to arrest me and the thousand of you, it’s almost like the first thousand get a prize: You get a citation. It’s a misdemeanor. You want to be one of the thousand? Come.”

McCoy encouraged people to come out to the church Sunday, despite the judge’s orders.

“I know that there’s gonna be a lot of people coming out, we’ve been getting calls from all over the country. My phone has never been this busy,” he said, also claiming to have received calls from the White House.

The pastor said it’s “impossible” for the church to hold services at a park, adding “we’ve had threats here and protesters so our people would be in danger.”

McCoy was a former Thousand Oaks mayor who resigned his post as City Council member on April 4 after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared churches nonessential, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Ventura County has had 8,146 people test positive for the virus as of Friday, with 89 people who have succumbed to the illness. The county is one of 37 being monitored by the state for heightened coronavirus activity as its health officials grapple with increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases that are, in part, being driven by virus transmission at gatherings and workplaces. 

In mid-July, Newsom told counties on the watchlist, which includes all counties in Southern California, to close indoor activities at places of worship, fitness centers, offices for non-critical sectors, personal care services, hair salons, barbershops, and indoor malls.

The strict orders came as coronavirus cases surged statewide and hospitalization rates reached all-time highs.

Ventura County leaders have approved the use of restraining orders and other enforcement actions against individuals and businesses that refuse to comply with local and state health orders in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

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