Report recommends reducing fines against Calvary Church for Christmas Eve gathering
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While New Mexico may have lifted capacity restriction on churches, it is also moving forward with imposing punishments against two Albuquerque churches.
Both Calvary Church and Legacy Church were cited for violating the public health order when they held Christmas Eve services. However, a report from a Hearing Officer indicates the state could not prove many of its claims against Calvary Church.
The state Department of Health originally fined Calvary Church $10,000 for violating capacity restrictions and violating the mask wearing requirement.
Case records reveal on Christmas Eve 2020, Calvary Church had more than 1,000 people at one of its services. However, a Hearing Officer recently found there was no adequate evidence to determine if the capacity rule was in fact violated. The report recommended the state reverse the penalty and drop the fine associated with that particular violation.
However, when it comes to the mask wearing requirement, it was a split opinion. The Hearing Officer found Calvary Church staff did violate the mask rule but also determined the church could not be held responsible for churchgoers not wearing masks.
The Hearing Officer wrote: "There was no legal authority presented that would require a house of worship to enforce the mask requirement on attendees."
While the recommendations are preliminary, representatives from Calvary Church welcomed them.
“Calvary Church maintains our position that our actions were appropriate. We recognize these were not easy times. Most importantly, we thank God that the coronavirus seems increasingly behind us…" said Calvary Church Executive Team in a prepared statement.
Overall, the Hearing Officer recommended the $10,000 in fines for Calvary Church be reduced to just $2,500. However the final determination will be up to the Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Health.
As for Legacy Church and its pending public health order citations, their hearing is set to take place next month.