Harvest Rock Pastor Ché Ahn said in a video released on Facebook Tuesday that the church will pay for citations received by parishioners defying city and state orders to attend his church.
“What I want to do is encourage you, and I have encouraged all those with underlying conditions to stay home,” Ahn said. “I’ve encouraged the elderly to stay home. I want to encourage you that if you feel, hey I don’t want to get a ticket please stay home.
“Now, if you do show up and you get a ticket, Harvest Rock Church is going to underwrite that ticket, we’ll pay for your citation.”
The church has been conducting services despite an order by Gov. Gavin Newsom and city officials barring large-scale indoor gatherings. A judge has ruled against the church’s request for an injunction that would stop Newsom from enforcing his order.
The order does allow the church to hold outdoor services.
Last week, the city’s chief assistant city prosecutor warned church leaders that if the church continues to hold indoor gatherings, church staff and owners could be subject to criminal penalties as well as the closure of the church.
Ahn and other church leaders could face separate charges carrying a potential punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine for each violation.
“Your compliance with these orders is not discretionary, it is mandatory,” wrote Assistant City Prosecutor Michael Dowd in an Aug. 13 letter to Ahn.
“Any violations in the future will subject your church, owners, administrators, operators, staff, and parishioners to the above-mentioned criminal penalties as well as the potential closure of your church.”
In the video, Ahn said he felt like there has to be some defiance to the order to end indoor meetings.
“I feel there has to be some resistance in this overreach because the numbers are not adding up,” he said. “We have seen a decline in COVID cases and a flattening of people dying in California and besides we really believe that we are doing what our First Amendment has given us a right to do — the freedom of religion, the freedom to assemble, the freedom of speech and of course the freedom to worship.”
The numbers in the state have declined and the state currently meets five of the six benchmarks required to reopen. However, health officials attribute the decline to people obeying the governor’s order.
According to City News Service, the church has more than 100 members.
The church could probably handle the financial burden if some of its members received tickets, but it is not known how many weeks it could continue to pay citations.
“I’m willing to go to jail for what I believe is my constitutional right and also for what I believe the Holy Spirit is asking me to do,” Ahn said.
Liberty Counsel, the nonprofit organization defending the church in court, on Monday posted an emergency prayer request for Harvest Rock, which included a monetary request.
“America needs you to stand for her RIGHT NOW. Not with harsh words, senseless violence, or hatred — but with the love of Christ and devotion to His church.
“YOU are the biblical ‘Stephens’ of our time, ministering to the needs of those working for God. I thank you for answering that call!
“As you know, Liberty Counsel never charges for our services. We know that few people, especially humble pastors and parishioners, could afford to pay for a legal defense against the endless tax-funded resources of city, county, state, and federal officials… especially if these cases go all the way to the Supreme Court.
“That’s why YOUR vital financial support is a ministry to the saints in and of itself. Without your financial support, pastors and parishioners might spend time in jail and their churches might be forever closed.”