Attorneys for Grace Community Church in Los Angeles filed documents in court Friday, the latest move in their continuing fight to defend their right to gather for indoor worship services.
The church, which has repeatedly made headlines since its leadership decided to resume services last July in defiance of state and local health mandates, was issued an injunction last September by L.A. Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff that ordered them against holding indoor services.
The injunction also required that congregants wear masks and socially distance even during outdoor services.
Grace Community Church and its legal representation will be in court next Friday on their motion to dissolve the injunction.
Among the documents filed was a declaration from Grace’s senior pastor John MacArthur, who addressed allegations from a blog post that his church is not reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 among the congregation. As The Daily Wire reported last November, the church was cleared by county public health officials after three out of their approximately 7,000 members came down with COVID-19 in October.
MacArthur wrote that “of the handful of people in our large flock who were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 over the past year, all the ones … of which I know were people who had remained quarantined because they had other medical conditions that put them at high risk. They did not get infected at Grace Community Church, because they were not attending services. Most of them were following strict health protocols and got the virus anyway.”
MacArthur went on to write at length regarding what he believes are the theological implications of the mask mandate but concluded that it is not the intention of the church to discourage parishioners from following health mandates.
“We especially do not want to shame the person who wears a mask purely because he or she genuinely believes the current secular orthodoxy about masks as a potentially effective shield against viral transmission,” he wrote. “People in the church are free to wear masks if they choose. But people who [disagree are] likewise free to worship, sing, pray, and proclaim God’s Word without a face covering—even if that goes against the vacillating, sometimes arbitrary, and frequently heavy-handed dictates of government officials. It is simply not the church’s duty to enforce executive orders based on a politician’s whimsy—particularly when obeying those edicts impinge on our freedom of worship in our church.”
Jenna Ellis, the church’s attorney from the Thomas More Society, said in a statement to The Daily Wire: “LA County has never been required to justify their arbitrary health orders and discriminatory treatment of Grace Community Church. The facts and recent Supreme Court opinions show that the County and the state far overstepped their legitimate authority.”
“Worse, LA County retaliated against the Church for challenging their actions,” Ellis continued. “Pastor John MacArthur and the board of elders were right theologically and constitutionally to open their church and stand firm. As Justice Gorsuch rightly said, ‘Even if the Constitution has taken a holiday during this pandemic, it cannot become a sabbatical.'”
Beginning April 15, California is loosening restrictions on large indoor sports, theater, and concert gatherings as COVID-19 cases plunge in the state, according to The Associated Press.