Church Under Fire for Non-Compliant Services Hosts More Gatherings

San Diego Police choose not to respond, putting the enforcement responsibility on the county's health officer

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Awaken Church, already under scrutiny for holding three non-compliant worship services in as many weeks, is garnering more negative attention Thursday for hosting indoor gatherings at its east and north county locations.

A member of the church group's Carlsbad campus told NBC 7 an indoor leadership meeting drew what appeared to be between 20 to 30 people to the church Thursday evening.

At its Eastlake location, approximately 100 people, dressed in formal attire, filed in the church's back door for a dinner party.

In both cases, many members entered the building without masks. Some were even met with hugs by greeters at the door.

"Thank you for your continued interest in our church and it's leadership," Awaken told NBC 7 in response to a request for comment on Thursday's events. "At this time, we have chosen to remain focused on serving our members and maintaining partnerships within the community. We elect to withhold any further comments and will make diligent effort to contact you if we decide to accept your request for an interview."

It appears the church isn't interested in following the rules, and it's also unclear if county leaders will take any action. NBC 7s Artie Ojeda has the story.

Awaken Church first made the news July 17 after NBC 7 aired footage of an indoor service held at the church's Kearny Mesa location. The county Public Health Officer ordered Awaken to cease and desist indoor services, and said the church was responsible for maintaining social distancing and facial coverings protocols among members at outdoor services.

On the two Wednesdays that followed, Awaken held outdoor services at their Kearny Mesa location that included large crowds of mostly young adults, live music, and no apparent social distancing or facial covering regulation.

The San Diego Police Department confirmed it received a complaint about the most recent service, but declined to respond.

A department spokesperson told NBC 7 in part, "The department is not in a position to shut down activities such as church services, and we believe the county health officer is in a better position to seek compliance."

The county issued a statement in response to the latest apparent violation on Wednesday night:

“Our compliance team is looking at possible next steps. It is more than clear in our order that the church is responsible for gaining total compliance from their parishioners. It is also clear they have not succeeded again this week,” said Michael Workman, county director of communications in an email.

Meanwhile in Eastlake, members didn't seem to concerned over possible COVID-19 transmission risks associated with indoor gatherings.

"Personally, I don't understand why religious services have been highlighted as an issue when protests are not an issue," a member who only identified himself as Rafael said.

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