Sept. 11, 2023
BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor
It’s always a good idea to turn off your phone at church. Not just for the obvious reason — you don’t want it to ring during the sermon — but the Santa Clara County government might be using your phone to spy on you at church.
You might laugh at that and doubt that the county would do such a thing. After all it would be a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects your right of privacy and requires the government to get a warrant, and the First Amendment, that allows people to exercise their right to religious freedom.
You might be thinking that the county board of supervisors would put a halt to it and promise the public it would never happen again.
But that hasn’t happened.
This spying was brought out into the open in a federal lawsuit filed Aug. 22 by Calvary Chapel in San Jose.
That church has been fighting the county over its pandemic restrictions and the county has fined them more than $1 million. That case is still pending.
Calvary argues that religious services were essential during the pandemic.
Pastor Mike McClure said at a 2021 court hearing that he heard from people suffering from anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide.
A church might be the only refuge for a small business owner who lost everything because of Health Director Dr. Sara Cody’s latest edict.
Calvary alleges that county employees hired a data company called SafeGraph to “geofence” church members using data emitted from their phones.
The suit said the year-long surveillance operation had no boundaries. They tracked church members in the prayer room and the bathroom.
If this were happening at a Muslim mosque, activist groups would be screaming. The supervisors would have fired the employees who authorized this and denounced their actions. But in this case, nothing has happened.
By doing nothing, the supervisors are telling their employees that this kind of Orwellian surveillance is OK. Who will be their next target?
Anyway, my tip for the day is: remember to turn off your cellphone before you go into church.
Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is [email protected].