Cease and Desist: County Cracks Down on Churches Holding Indoor Services

County public health officer sends notices to three churches, advising them to move services outdoors

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The San Diego County Public Health Officer has sent strongly worded notices to at least three churches that have either violated or have voiced an intention to violate current public health orders restricting indoor services.

The notices, which are all posted below, were signed by Dr. Wilma Wooten and are dated July 17, warning that the failure to comply could result in a misdemeanor citation and $1,000 fine for each violation.

Two churches, Lighthouse Baptist Church on Skyline Drive, and Skyline Church on Campo Road, received notices that are virtually identical.

“It has been reported that your church intends to conduct indoor services at multiple locations in violation of the Order of the State Health Officer and the County Order of the Health Officer and Emergency Regulations,” begins the notice.

The notice goes on to express regret and acknowledges the impact of the restrictions. But they also state that the activity puts many people at risk.

“I hope that your consideration and concern for the health and safety of your congregation and the general public will convince you to move in-person services outdoors in compliance with the orders’ requirements,” the notice concludes.

Meanwhile, a cease-and-desist order was sent to the Awaken Church’s Balboa Campus in Kearny Mesa.

In the order, Wooten said she has viewed video from a local news station showing the church conducting an indoor service in violation of health orders.

NBC 7 aired video of the indoor service on July 15.

The church, in further defiance, then held an outdoor event the following week in its parking lot. Dozens gathered for a concert without wearing masks or social distancing.

The county has not made public any further action taken against the church.

In a message posted to Awaken Church’s Facebook page on July 17, Pastor Jurgen Matthesius bemoaned Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order “dictating and regulating how worship can be conducted.” The pastor noted the critical role of the church in aiding residents who are managing the physical, emotional and psychological toll brought on by the pandemic.

“The church is a place that provides healing, relief and hope from these situations,” Jurgen wrote in the post.

Jurgen said the church will go above and beyond to make sure it is following regulations -- to an extent.

“However, there’s an expiration date on how long a church can function online and still meet all the aspects of the health, the physical and emotional and spiritual needs of our people,” Jurgen added in the post.

Jurgen also said that restrictions have become much worse than the virus itself, downplaying the ratio of deaths to population in San Diego County.

“While every death is a tragedy, the impact of these shutdowns extends far beyond the disease itself,” Jurgen wrote.

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