My last post about the Revd John MacArthur’s ministry and Church was dated October 5, 2020.
Thousands of people attend his Grace Community Church services each Sunday.
There are three services each Sunday.
MacArthur has defied lockdown regulations in Los Angeles County since July.
By way of background, here is a report from The Federalist from September 11 (emphases mine):
Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff of the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction Thursday that prohibits Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from “conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services.” The ban also extends to services held outside “unless onerous restrictions are followed.”
Since the church first began meeting in-person and defying local lockdown orders in July, Los Angeles County officials have threatened fines, arrest, and even terminated the lease held between the church and the county for parking lot space claiming health and safety concerns.
A $1000 fine issued by Los Angeles County was also imposed on the church this week for signs asking congregants to refrain from entering if they were experiencing “an elevated temperature, a cough, or any flu-like symptoms.” According to the county, the signs were not placed at the proper entrances and exits and did not contain instructions asking people to “wash hands or use sanitizer, to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing.”
Special counsel Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri expressed their disappointment in Thursday ruling, claiming that the court “ducked the issue” and failed “to apply the appropriate constitutional standard of review.” They also explained their belief that the church was held to a different standard than other activities during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“The court also did not properly consider the medical and scientific evidence that the current number of people with serious COVID-19 symptoms no longer justifies a shuttering of the churches. Nor do we believe that the court gave adequate consideration to the fact that churches have been treated as second-class citizens compared to the tens of thousands of protestors,” LiMandri said.
This opinion by the court, according to Ellis and LiMandri, shows that the church was unfairly targeted.
“Church is essential, and no government agent has the runaway, unlimited power to force churches to close indefinitely. The County’s argument was basically ‘because we can,’ which is the very definition of tyranny,” Ellis said. “Without limiting government’s power in favor of freedom and protected rights, we have no liberty. We will fight for religious freedom, as our founders did when they wrote the First Amendment.”
“More than ever, California’s churches are essential,” LiMandri agreed.
Despite the court’s ruling, Pastor John MacArthur told Fox News’s Shannon Bream on Thursday night that the church would still be meeting.
“1/100th of 1 percent of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all? That is not what our founders said,” said MacArthur. “Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government—including the judicial branch—is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches.”
The Thomas More Society also said that they will appeal it to “ultimately vindicate our clients’ constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.”
The Federalist‘s article also included a tweet from Jenna Ellis:
On September 25, The Federalist reported:
In a previous order by Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff, the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction that was intended to prohibit MacArthur and Grace from “conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services.”
“It’s tyranny to even suggest that a government action cannot be challenged and must be obeyed without question. This case goes to the heart of what our founders designed for the purpose of the legitimate government—not to be above the rule of law,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Jenna Ellis. “Pastor MacArthur is simply holding church, which is clearly his constitutionally protected right in this country.”
While the trial will not officially commence until 2021, the judge agreed to host a hearing in mid-November “to consider the scope of the challenge to the validity of the preliminary injunction order for purposes of the contempt trial.”
“This ruling prevents Los Angeles County’s attempted rush to judgment in its continued prosecution of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church for courageously exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Special Counsel Charles LiMandri. “We are pleased that Judge Beckloff indicated he agreed with the major points that we made on behalf of Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church and we are very gratified that the judge’s ruling today reflects that he appreciates the importance of the constitutionally protected rights at issue in this case.”
We are holding church. The Lord Jesus requires us to meet together and we will continue to do that because we are commanded to and because it is our right.
On October 22, the Los Angeles Times reported that three COVID-19 cases have been linked to Grace Community Church, which receives 7,000 worshippers each Sunday:
Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has seen three confirmed cases, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Public health officials are investigating the outbreak and said they will work closely with the church to help limit transmission of the coronavirus in the church, which has an estimated attendance of 7,000. The county did not provide any further details about whether the cases were confirmed among staff or worshipers. Attorneys for Grace Community Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under the county health officer’s order, places of worship must report to the county Public Health Department when at least three coronavirus cases are identified among staff or worshipers within a span of 14 days so the agency can determine whether there is an outbreak.
The conservative megachurch announced in late July that it would restart indoor services — despite a county public health order barring any house of worship from doing so. Thousands of people have attended services, with most not wearing face coverings as they sit side by side indoors, or close together outside under a tent, according to public health officials.
Pastor John MacArthur has repeatedly told the congregation that no one from the church has gotten sick with COVID-19 and claims the pandemic threat is overblown. The church does not screen congregants for symptoms before they enter or require them to follow any protocols, according to court records and interviews with members.
MacArthur has been increasingly skeptical of the pandemic, a viewpoint he has shared from the pulpit. He and his attorneys have argued that it is their constitutional right to hold church services and that meeting together in person is a crucial part of how Grace Community Church’s congregants exercise their religion.
MacArthur has been bucking the county regulations. Good for him.
On October 24, The Federalist reported that Jenna Ellis, one of the two lawyers representing MacArthur and Grace Community Church, said:
Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news. 0.0004% or 0.043% is not an ‘outbreak.’ The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader.
It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.
The day before, Ellis retweeted this Bible verse from MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary:
I could not agree more.
May our good Lord continue to guide John MacArthur and his congregation.