Experts Say ‘Flawed’ Study Used to Justify Mask Mandate, $3 Million in Fines Levied at Church


Santa Clara County’s $3 million lawsuit against a church in California’s Silicon Valley over COVID-19 mandate violations, as well as its prior mask mandate, was based on a study that’s deeply flawed, critics say.

Pastor Mike McClure of Calvary Chapel San Jose defied county mandates from May through October 2020 when the church held indoor services, made masks optional, ignored social distancing rules, and refused to place limits on how many of its 600 congregants could attend services.

The county filed a civil enforcement lawsuit against the church in November 2020 to collect fines and penalties totaling $2.87 million—and in its latest move, the county asked the California Supreme Court on Sept. 26 to review an appeals court decision from August that allowed the church to avoid paying more than $200,000 in court fines.

Meanwhile, the county’s indoor mask mandate was changed to a recommendation in March. The church also filed a civil rights lawsuit against county and state officials over the fines and COVID-related restrictions in April.

“I can remember a particular study around masking evidence that was a large study in Bangladesh that had cases—it was a large retrospective cohort study that demonstrated the efficacy of community-wide masking. I can’t remember exactly where it was published. It was not published by the CDC [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” she said.

Norman Fenton, a mathematician and risk information management professor at Queen Mary University of London, also said the Bangladesh study doesn’t hold up to rigorous analysis and doesn’t prove masks work.

“There was no discernible effect of the mask intervention on covid infection,” he concluded.

In his paper from May, Fenton states the news media grossly exaggerated the authors’ conclusions in the Bangladesh study, and that skeptical researchers have identified weaknesses in various aspects of the trial and statistical analysis, thus casting doubt on the significance of the results.

A more recent re-analysis published on Sept. 15 provides additional “damning critique” of the Bangladesh study, Fenton said in an email to The Epoch Times. The re-analysis, led by University of California–Berkeley professor Benjamin Recht, found masks had a “modest or no direct effect on COVID-related outcomes.”

‘Statistical Noise’

Malone and former Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, who have both spoken at Defeat the Mandates rallies, attended an event hosted by the Liberty Forum of Silicon Valley on COVID mismanagement in Santa Clara on Aug. 13.

Kirsch has written extensively about the pandemic, and said Cody’s recent deposition provided a rare opportunity to force a public health official to answer questions, according to his Sept. 20 Substack post.

“We finally learn in the deposition that Sara Cody’s mask mandate was based on the Bangladesh mask study,” Kirsch wrote.

“Well, you can’t change the color of a mask and have it suddenly work. Physics doesn’t work that way, and so clearly what was going on is they were just measuring statistical noise,” Kirsch told The Epoch Times.

Kirsch contends there is no valid science to back up the idea that masks work in the first place, and for the county to continue its lawsuit against the church for $3 million and ignore evidence the Bangladesh mask study is flawed is “just ridiculous, and an “unconscionable miscarriage of justice.”

Even though several experts have cast doubt on the study, its authors and Science medical journal have refused to retract it, so it remains a serious problem that has affected “everybody on the planet,” Kirsch said.

Meanwhile, another study in Finland seems to indicate people were worse off wearing masks, according to an analysis by Dr. Vinay Prasad, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California–San Francisco.

The Sept. 23 revision by the CDC said that nursing home facilities and hospitals in a number of areas without “high” community transmission can “choose not to require” all doctors, patients, and visitors to wear masks.

“Updates were made to reflect the high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools,” the CDC said.

Church Supporters

Malone and others who defend Calvary Chapel San Jose say Cody, the public health officer, and county attorney James Williams have gone too far in their actions against the church.

McClure told The Epoch Times he acted as a Good Samaritan to help people through the darkest days of the pandemic and lockdowns when depression and suicide rates were on the rise.

The pastor will face new questioning this week about whether he or the church prospered during the lockdown.

“I have a deposition coming up in two days. It’s all financial questions,” he said on Sept. 27.

After the county’s lawsuit was filed, Williams sent a letter to Cass Commercial Bank disclosing the church owed a substantial amount of money in fines, effectively suggesting to the church’s lenders that it might be in financial trouble, McClure said.

“I didn’t think it would escalate to have a county threaten to take your property, but that’s what they did. They threatened us with everything they possibly could.”

At the time, the church was repaying a $1.9 million construction loan and still owed about $1 million. The bank reacted to the letter by giving the church 30 days to pay off the debt, which it did with the help of Pastor Jack Hibbs at the Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills and an “angel lender,” McClure said.

The bank has since apologized to the church, he said.

The real battle, he said, isn’t about health and safety—it’s about politics, power, and whether America is going to trust government or put its faith in God.

Also, because the church is in Big Tech’s backyard in Silicon Valley, the situation has become even more hostile, McClure said.

“We’re in the belly of the beast of modern-day Babylon,” McClure said. “The government wants our loyalty, and they want to take over the church. They don’t like the First Amendment … Our county has said openly that the Constitution doesn’t apply here. When we had the Supreme Court rule in our favor, they disregarded it. They didn’t care.”

Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney with Advocates for Faith and Freedom who is representing the church, told The Epoch Times that no other county in the state has levied such “enormous fines” against a church.

“It is very extreme, and I don’t think the district court is going to be pleased with them [Santa Clara County] not trying to settle,” she said. “The court in our case has admonished the county. The judge told them that this is not the hill you want to die on.”

The case, Gondeiro said, illustrates the county and its elected officials have lost perspective of their roles and responsibilities and instead targeted their adversaries.

“It’s an important case because this is such an abuse of power at this point, and what they’re doing is unconstitutional,” she said. “It’s important that this county be held accountable.”

Source: The Epoch Times