Legal counsel for a prominent evangelical church in Los Angeles announced on Thursday that the county is seeking a temporary restraining order against the church and its pastor.
The order comes a day after the Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit against California officials on behalf of Grace Community Church and its senior pastor, John MacArthur, who were recently threatened with fines and imprisonment for holding in-person worship services.
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 13, 2020
As The Daily Wire reported, the lawsuit contrasted the California government’s “onerous” treatment of churches compared to how it handled the mass protests that roiled the state after George Floyd’s death. The complaint read in part, “Having irreparably damaged the confidence of Americans – and Californians especially – who now realize that the pandemic restrictions are neither necessary nor good, on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Grace Community Church decided to resume worship services—joining millions of Americans in deciding that enough is enough.”
During a Thursday interview with The Daily Wire’s Andrew Klavan, MacArthur’s attorney Jenna Ellis joined the pastor to discuss both the case and the county’s response to it.
“We just got notice from the county attorney that L.A. County is now seeking a temporary restraining order for two things,” Ellis said. “They’re trying even this Sunday — so the hearing’s going to be tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time — they are seeking to restrain Grace Community Church from allowing any form of indoor worship and also outdoor worship that does not comply with its ridiculous mandates.”
Ellis continued, “So they are now — even though my co-counsel and I spoke with them yesterday, we said, ‘Please have the Health Department read our lawsuit. We feel that we have really good arguments under the Constitution. Maybe this will help them understand our position more.’ Well, no, they didn’t even hear it. They just went out, they are trying to restrain Grace Community Church and we, of course, will defend their constitutionally protected rights.”
Ellis went on to explain how “This is not Pastor John and Grace Community Church defying the law. The law in America and the state of California is the Constitution and those protections. This is Grace Community Church standing on the side of the law against these overreaching tyrants that are defying their oaths of office when they are commanded, mandated by the Constitution to preserve and protect our right to free exercise of religion.”
The law firm representing L.A. County did not immediately respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment.
In a similar case just north of Los Angeles, Ventura County and its public health officer, Dr. Robert Levin, sued to stop Pastor Rob McCoy from opening his church, Godspeak Calvary Chapel, in defiance of coronavirus lockdown orders. County Judge Matthew Guasco slapped McCoy and up to 1,000 parishioners with a restraining order forbidding them from congregating inside the church building.
According to the Ventura County Star, Judge Vincent O’Neill Jr. denied the county government’s request for an order directing the sheriff to “take necessary actions” to ensure the church stays closed, but left open the possibility of the church and pastor being found in contempt of court during an Aug. 21 hearing.