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Calif. County Tracked Church Members during COVID with Cell Phone Data: Court Documents


A California county federal government utilized the place information on church members’ mobile phone in 2020 and 2021 in order to figure out if a prominent churchgoers, Calvary Chapel, was breaking pandemic health limitations, according to court files.

Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastor, Mike McClure, have actually not rejected that they defied pandemic health limitations by conference, stating that church is as important as food. The lawsuit includes the concern of whether the church need to pay almost $3 million in fines. It has about 3,000 participants.

Santa Clara County used a method called “geofencing” to identify if the church was breaking the constraints, according to The Mercury NewsThrough geofencing, the county made the most of the area information on church members’ mobile phone to track the motion of individuals within the church. The county stated the information stayed confidential.

The Mercury News called the federal government’s action “remarkable.” In another example of the county’s effort to collect information on the church, evaluation officers parked in the parking area of a close-by churchgoers– Central Church of Christ– in order to keep track of the activity of church members at Calvary Chapel. Ultimately, Central Church of Christ informed the officers to go somewhere else. They complied.

“It is unconscionable just how much money and time this county has actually invested surveilling and targeting this church when they must be concentrated on reconstructing the neighborhood,” Mariah Gondeiro, a lawyer for Calvary Chapel, informed the paper.

County inspectors made 44 check outs to the location in between August 2020 and January 2021, the paper reported.

“There are all sort of interest in geofencing when you speak about your First Amendment rights like liberty of expression or civil liberty,” Mike Katz-Lacabe, director of the company Human Rights and Privacy, informed the paper. “You might possibly utilize it to see who goes to a mosque– or victimize particular spiritual groups or minorities.”

McClure, in 2021, stated the church deserved to defy the federal government on the problem.

“It’s stated you might go 30 days without food,” he stated. “You can go 3 days without water. You can’t go 3 seconds without hope. America requires to understand the bright side of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

McClure stated of the church’s infraction of regional health constraints: “We need to follow God’s Word. And we require to congregate.”

Picture courtesy: © Getty Images/Tim Robberts

Michael Foust has actually covered the crossway of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have actually appeared in Baptist Press,Christianity Today The Christian Post theLeaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star andthe Knoxville News-Sentinel

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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