ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health has made a final decision on a church fined for Christmas Eve services. Calvary Church was first fined for violating public health order capacity limits. KRQE learns that the fine is lower than what the state requested.
New Mexico is now 100% open. However, in 2020, on Christmas Eve, there were strict restrictions statewide. Around Christmas, churches were allowed to operate at 25% of their capacity. On social media at the time, Calvary Church thanked everyone who came to the Christmas Eve service. Photos show the venue was packed with little social distancing.
Legacy Church also held Christmas Eve services and has been cited for a health violation. The New Mexico Department of Health fined Calvary Church $ 10,000 for violating capacity restrictions and the mask requirement.
An investigation ended as the Calvary Church probably had over a thousand people at one of its services. There was no conclusive evidence to show whether the capacity rule had in fact been violated. The investigation revealed that Calvary staff had violated the mask rule. They were not responsible for requiring those attending the service to wear a mask.
NMDOH increased the fine from $ 10,000 to $ 2,500. Calvary Church did not walk past the camera but made the following statement:
We are delighted with this favorable ruling, but are puzzled to see that part of the fine has been upheld for an offense that was not even part of the original citation. We wonder if the state couldn’t just whitewash us without slapping our wrists in an attempt to save face. One could easily assume that this is not and never has been a question of science, but of politics and politicians who choose when our First Amendment rights are available to us. On the one hand, the governor said pastors can preach on stage without masks, on the other hand, the state health department fined us for doing just that. What did the state expect: that our pastors deliver the Christmas message behind a mask? The problem is not the amount of the fine, but the fact that there was even a fine for Christians who worshiped at Christmas.
To be clear: Throughout this terrible pandemic, we have looked for ways to serve and encourage the people of New Mexico. At Christmas last year – one of the holiest and most important seasons for Christians – we welcomed weary people into our church to find hope and light. For this action, the governor’s office labeled us âpro-virusâ pastors. More recently, the governor called those who expressed their disagreements with her âlizard peopleâ. If our elected officials spent less time insulting and more time looking for ways to work with all New Mexicans to provide hope and light, then our state and our country would be a better place for all, especially those devastated by Covid. -19.
Ultimately, New Mexicans are going to have to decide at the polls how important freedom is to them – especially religious freedom – and that must have an impact on which Democrats, Republicans or others they vote for. “
Calvary Church New Mexico
KRQE asked Calvary if he was going to pay the fine of $ 2,500. They did not respond. They have not yet paid the fine.
The Legacy Church hearing is scheduled for August 17, 2021 for their $ 10,000 fine. Pastor Steve Smothermon says âWe will never pay them a dime. We don’t think they have the legal power to fine or tax the church.