Santa Clara’s North Valley Baptist Church Fined for Violating Social Distancing, But Will Continue to Hold Services

By Robert Haugh

The North Valley Baptist Church on De la Cruz Boulevard has been repeatedly fined for holding church services since late August.

But Pastor Jack Trieber has told his congregation that he intends to keep holding services. He also expects more fines from the County.

The Church received a cease-and-desist letter from the County. 

The County charges that the Church failed to make sure attendees were wearing masks and social distancing. They were also singing indoors and that’s prohibited.

According to a KNTV report, Pastor Trieber posted a Facebook video that said over nine days North Valley Baptist Church has been fined $52,750. Wow.

In the video, Trieber said: 

“We have the right to assemble before God. Not only do we have a constitutional right we have a constitutional command. We are not closing down this church. I hope you get this message. I know America does not want this to happen in her country and at this church.”

This is a developing story that we’ll be following.


  1. Now, why has none said the obvious??? People can decide for themselves if going somewhere may put them at risk and choose not to go, stay home, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away! My husband and I are seniors and are perfectly capable of making our own decisions. One person at our church had the virus back in January. Others who are first responders or healthcare workers have as well. They stayed home and recovered. Everyone needs to calm down and step away. By and large we have found most people to be thoughtful and considerate.

  2. What amazes me is that there is report after report about groups meeting, including churches, and then people being so SURPRISED when members of their group become ill, some dying. At some point one just hopes the next group, whether a church group or a motorcycle convention, is so insular that the inevitable outcome touches only their members. (Side question: Which brain cells are those not understanding the idea of people-with-no-symptoms getting other people deathly ill?)

  3. @Janine
    “…others of us will be taking care of our very beloved and very ill family members. …”
    I sincerely wish you the best in caring for yourself and your family. I am doing the same and that includes being able to work and provide for them. Leaving the house to do so means taking risks, including getting sick; that has always been the case and always will be the case and we consciously take risks to care and provide for our families. This is how adults live.
    You could not refute the truth of my original post and you falsely accused me of spreading the virus. I realize that your statement was rhetorical however here’s another tidbit about our legal system; The burden of proof lies with the accuser not the accused. No matter how you interpret the numbers, at any moment in time the vast majority of the general public is not infectious; you cannot assume that I am infectious. When you prove that I specifically am infectious and present a risk to others we can discuss my quarantine, until then do not try to proscribe my liberty, specifically my religious freedom.
    The first paragraph of your post is an appeal to the absurd ( reductio ad absurdum if you like jargon). It also reveals your religious bigotry. I will not respond to either.
    The second paragraph of your post contains a valid point; that the rights of individuals conflict at times so how do we resolve those conflicts? A key ingredient is the willingness of the parties to make concessions to each other.
    The North Valley Baptist Church members have followed the guidelines for six months with no end in sight and now they are asking for some concession. The response of local government has been to fine, and then drastically raise the fines and threaten arrest. This shows not only a lack of good faith but outright ill will directed specifically at the church. This tyrannical attitude of the local government will not lead to just and equitable redress of the church grievance.

    • Here’s another recent news story relevant to this discussion. Millinocket, Maine has a population of about 4500. At least 3 deaths and at least 147 cases of COVID-19, including an outbreak at a county jail, and now reportedly one at a nursing home, seem to trace back to one recent local wedding, according to multiple recent articles. 147 is about 3.4% of the entire state’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases ever (reported to be 4317 as I write this) and the final number may not stop at 147.

      Patrick Henry, no bigotry intended. I strongly support religious freedom or the freedom to not believe in or practice any religion at all.

      But I also support the rights of those trying to stop the pandemic for the benefit of us all. Many churches understand their duties as responsible members of part of a larger community and have vountarily temporarily adjusted their practices so that they can behave as close to normal as practical without risking hurting public health. Attending virtual services temporarily, for example, seems like a small sacrifice if it helps stop the pandemic, and I applaud those who are making that effort.

      My examples were intentiuonally absurd, to show problems with your absolute claims when you wrote, “supreme law of the land and there are no exceptions or qualifications in that statement. No State or local law may circumvent it.”

      Clearly state and local laws CAN circumvent it in limited circumstances. Sometimes constitutional rights conflict with each other. We all know that, despite the second amendment, many jurisdictions place at least limited restrictions on gun ownership. Despite your first amendment rights, you don’t have an absolute right to yell, “fire!” in a crowded theater without good cause.

      Those who actually have a background in law say it better than I can.

      ““When particular conduct is regulated in the interest of public order, and the regulation results in an indirect, conditional, partial abridgement of speech, the duty of the courts is to determine which of these two conflicting interests demands the greater protection under the particular circumstances presented.” …

      “For the Court, Justice Harlan began by asserting that freedom of speech and association were not absolutes but were subject to various limitations. Among the limitations, “general regulatory statutes, not intended to control the content of speech but incidentally limiting its unfettered exercise, have not been regarded as the type of law the First or Fourteenth Amendment forbade Congress or the States to pass, when they have been found justified by subordinating valid governmental interests, a prerequisite to constitutionality which has necessarily involved a weighing of the governmental interest involved.””

      Those statements seem very relevant to the COVID-19 situation.

    • Oh I know…It’s insane. No concern for helping our neighbors and being compassionate to children and elderly who can get this horrible thing. The ego is an amazing thing and will outweigh the very message of Jesus Christ which is to love and help one another 😔

  4. So they’re pro-life but have no problems spreading a deadly virus to their community including to the elderly and children… ok👌!

  5. So, they’re pro-life but have no problem spreading a deadly virus to the community including the elderly and children. Ok, got it.

    • How do they spread a virus when they have zero cases Janine S.? They are not spreading a virus.

    • The pastor has admitted to the church that a number of staff members and members of the congregation have tested positive with symptoms.

    • Jake, could you share the link where the pastor admitted “that a number of staff members and members of the congregation have tested positive with symptoms? thank you, but you I kindly believe you are incorrect.The video I saw on YouTube of the Pastor said they have zero cases currently, and had 2 resolved cases to date here is the link:

    • Huh? Because they’ve HAD zero cases, does not mean they WILL NOT. Anyone could become infected at any time and spread this. This is very simple and straightforward: A large congregation is ignoring and dismissing safety protocols during a deadly pandemic. Additionally, this pastor’s nonchalant comments about taking HIS chances on HIS health is very disturbing to say the least. Is there no one else at risk? There are plenty of churches across the country keeping safe and creating other ways to worship while we are in this temporary situation.

    • Cut off their electricity and water supply? How cruel, dude! What message are you trying to get across, that it’s OK to withhold life’s necessities to these people? Not cool!

    • You are kidding, right?

      Wouldn’t be meant to be a message- Just a means to keep the community from getting infected since this pastor can’t put on his big-boy pants and figure out a temporary workaround.

      Here’s yours:

      “Cut off their electricity and water supply?” (to a building no one’s being forced to be in) “How cruel, dude! What message are you trying to get across, that it’s OK to withhold life’s necessities to these people? Not cool!”

      Here’s mine:

      “Cut off their oxygen supply? How cruel, dude! What message are you trying to get across, that it’s OK to take away life itself from other people? Not cool!”

      This is very simple.

    • It is indeed simple. “Congress shall make no law respecting a establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, …” This the supreme law of the land and there are no exceptions or qualifications in that statement. No State or local law may circumvent it. There is a reason that this is the very first sentence in the Bill of Rights, the actions of the Crown against the churches of the colonists is what unified them against the Crown more than anything else. These modern tyrants are fools and the fool says in his heart “There is no God.”

    • I guess it depends on which expert you want to listen to. In court I’ve heard experts grossly contradict each other all depending on who they represent. Is singing so much worse than talking? what data do they have to prove this? Do masks really stop the virus? Do all experts agree – no they do not. How many politicians make rules to protect (so they say), but don’t live by the rules they insist others keep. I question how much of this issue has been overtaken by politics, not common sense.

    • Well while you’re enjoying your luxury of thinking it through until you have 100% confirmation on all fronts, others of us will be taking care of our very beloved and very ill family members.

      I’m out of this comments section.

    • So you and your friends could hold your religious services stopped in the fast lane of Interstate 280 during rush hour, or in the Oval Office, and be guaranteed you would not be prevented from doing so?
      And fire codes don’t apply to churches and nothing can stop Our Lady of Ammonium Nitrate from holding its annual biggest bonfire competition on church grounds next to the school? And if MY religious group wanted to meet in YOUR living room at 2 AM nobody could legally prevent us from doing so because WE HAVE ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS and no laws can stop us? Thanks for the clarification.

      Why is it so hard for people to understand that with rights come responsibilities? That even if you strictly have the right to do something, it may be better for both you and for society as a whole if you at least sometimes don’t demand to fully exercise each of those rights? What if we all (gasp) cooperated to defeat the virus, so we could ALL return to something a lot closer to normal life ASAP? Does it help anyone if you win a court battle on a technicality, but help the pandemic state persist way longer than it otherwise would by demanding to exercise each of your rights to the utmost limit?

      For Bern below, who asks if singing is so much worse than talking, and anyone else interested in real studies of relative risks, it wouldn’t hurt to look at

      As always, further research may bring better data to light, but this looks like a good start at something more useful in real life than the absolute 6 foot model.

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