Calvary Church and Legacy Church, both based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were fined $10,000 after local officials alleged that both churches violated the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, The Christian Post reports.
In a statement sent to The Christian Post on Friday, a Calvary spokesperson contended that the church complied with public health guidelines.
“Vulnerable people were discouraged from attending, every other row was cordoned off in the church’s spacious sanctuaries, mask-wearing was encouraged, and family units that came together, sat together,” the spokesperson explained.
“We are also confident that we maintained capacity levels in keeping with our state’s current public health order.”
The spokesperson also noted that Democratic Governor Lujan Grisham “praised us earlier this year for our efforts, so we are especially shocked by the incendiary and politicized rhetoric from the governor’s office.”
The restrictions went into effect Dec. 15, where churches in “red-level” counties were required to limit gatherings to 25 percent capacity.
Last week, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Communications Director Tripp Stelnicki denounced both churches in a statement for endangering the “lives, livelihoods and health of not only their parishioners but their entire communities — and, given how quickly this virus can spread, potentially our state as a whole.”
According to local news outlet KRQE, Stelnicki deemed the gatherings “illegal and selfish” as it will “directly contribute to more suffering and illness in our state. These church leaders should reflect on the danger they’ve unleashed in their communities.”
In response to the fines, the Calvary Church spokesperson noted that the church always maintained a good relationship with both local and state officials but now they will be calling for an administrative hearing over the fines.
The spokesperson asserted that the church should not be fined for its gatherings in light of the First Amendment, given that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of several churches in cases where churches were given more stringent COVID-19 restrictions by their state governments than other businesses and organizations.