A large Pentecostal church in Northern California defied public health orders Sunday by holding multiple packed indoor services with conservative activist Charlie Kirk, without wearing face masks.
Kirk, co-founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA, joined Pastor Greg Fairrington at Destiny Church in Rocklin for a 45-minute discussion over three sermons Sunday morning.
Both Kirk and Fairrington have been vocal opponents of public health orders, largely due to what they claim are attacks on religious institutions.
“This is the greatest attack on religious liberty in American history,” Kirk said Sunday of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s health orders to reduce spread of the coronavirus, including the mandated use of masks in public settings.
Few masks, little social distancing: In the service simultaneously streamed on the church’s Facebook page, neither Kirk nor Fairrington were seen wearing masks as required by state health orders. Instagram videos posted from the event also showed few masks being worn by audience members and little social distancing.
A Destiny Church official told CNN said mask-wearing was not enforced at the event.
“We do follow some of the guidelines including taking temperatures of every individual who comes to church,” said the official, who requested anonymity due to the church’s violations of state public health guidelines. The official said the church also lowered the occupancy of the auditorium, but did not disclose the number of attendees.
Placer County, where the church is located, is in the most restrictive of California’s four-tier reopening system where coronavirus risk is considered widespread and church services are only allowed outdoors. To date, the county has reported 5,880 cases including 67 deaths.
Government response: A spokesperson for Placer County referred questions about the service to Rocklin officials.
Michael Young, a spokesperson for the city of Rocklin, said it is “committed to partnering with local businesses and organizations to protect the health and safety of residents. The city continues to provide the latest information on state COVID-19 mandates and impress upon everyone the need for compliance.”
But the church official said it has not received orders to halt in-person services and Rocklin and Placer County officials are “all aware of what we have chosen to do.”