There is an apparent ceasefire between Santa Clara County Public Health and the North Valley Baptist Church on De La Cruz Boulevard. On Sunday, Sept. 13, the church held outdoor services, complying with the health department’s health orders in regards to COVID-19.
At the start of his sermon on Sunday, Jack Trieber, the lead pastor at North Valley Baptist Church, told the crowd that the dais he was standing on was built on Friday and Saturday. Cars parked facing that dais for Sunday’s sermon. Parishioners stayed in their cars and ushers wore masks and moved between the cars during the service.
Trieber told his parishioners on Sunday that while the papers are not signed yet, the county has agreed to drop its lawsuit against the church provided that the church continue to hold services outdoors until the county health orders allow for indoor services.
“To me, that’s a victory,” Trieber told his congregation.
A spokesperson for Santa Clara County Public Health confirmed that the county is in discussions with North Valley Baptist Church regarding a “potential compliance agreement,” but would not discuss it any further.
Trieber says that in return, North Valley Baptist Church has dropped its lawsuit against the county. A search of court records did not find a case filed by the North Valley Baptist Church against Santa Clara County.
According to a Public Health spokesperson, North Valley Baptist Church has not held indoor gatherings since Wednesday, Sept. 9. The spokesperson said that as of Sept. 17, “The Church has not yet submitted a Social Distancing Protocol, as is required by the July 2 Risk Reduction Order.”
To date, the county has fined the church $152,750 for not complying with the county health orders regarding COVID-19. The fines started on Aug. 23 and continued on the days leading up to Sept. 9.
Public Health started issuing fines to businesses that did not comply with county health orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-August. On Aug. 11, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance authorizing the fines.
Despite the fact that the North Valley Baptist Church is located in Santa Clara, city officials and the Santa Clara Police Department were never involved in the dispute.
“The County of Santa Clara is the enforcement agency and the City of Santa Clara has not had a role other than supporting the churches in understanding the public health orders and how to comply. There is no further action for the City,” said Santa Clara’s Director of Communications Lenka Wright.