The leaders of a Santa Rosa, California church which at first refused to stop holding indoor worship services decided to comply on Sunday after county officials fined the church twice in two days.
The Press Democrat reports the Spring Hill Church was fined $100 last week after being warned by county officials for months.
Despite being fined by county officials, Senior Pastor Bret Avlakeotes vowed to continue to hold indoor services.
“We’re not trying to prove anything, just meet people’s need for God. If people are uncomfortable, don’t come,” Avlakeotes who founded the church with his wife, Eve, told the newspaper on Thursday. “We’ve gotten the warnings, but it’s kind of like do I listen to God and meet people’s spiritual needs as a pastor and church and listen to God and follow scripture, assemble of our own free will? Or is the state God?”
After Avlakeotes publicly stated that the congregation would continue to hold indoor services in defiance of county and state orders, the church received a second $100 fine Saturday night and a third $100 fine on Sunday morning.
The church was the first religious organization in the area fined for defying health orders banning indoor worship services to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to the newspaper.
Avlakeotes said the church would yield to the county’s direction to move services outside while holding out hope — and leading his congregation in prayer — for a U.S. Supreme Court intervention.
“We pray for the freedom to worship,” he said.
He prayed, also, for a strong relationship with Sonoma County, saying “we don’t want it to be funky or sidewise.”
“We’re not looking to prove anything, and we’re not looking for a fight, alright?” Avlakeotes told his congregation Sunday. “If the county’s going to come in and is going to fight us all the way, then we’ll probably let them win this one. We’ll go outside.”
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