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A Los Angeles County judge denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against a prominent evangelical church and its pastor after they did not comply with Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to shutter their house of worship because of the coronavirus.
Judge James Chalfant agreed with Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur that the burden rested on Los Angeles County officials to prove why they were justified in infringing upon the church’s right to freely exercise their religion. The church nevertheless agreed to abide by mask and social distancing protocols at least until the full hearing in September.
Judge Allows Indoor Services https://t.co/d1J5gf4K9K
— John MacArthur (@johnmacarthur) August 15, 2020
According to a press release from the church’s legal counsel at the Thomas More Society:
To address those concerns and after explaining that the County was being unreasonable in its demands, counsel for Grace Community Church offered to comply with mask wearing and social distancing indoors until the matter could be fully heard, rather than the County simply rushing to shut down the Church. The judge agreed this was reasonable, set the full hearing for September 4, 2020, and ordered the Church to have congregants wear masks and social distance between family groups indoors.
MacArthur said of the ruling, “I am very grateful the Court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us because he is allowing us to meet. This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. This also gives us an opportunity to show that we are not trying to be rebellious or unreasonable, but that we will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
MacArthur made headlines several weeks ago when he and the elders of Grace Community Church released a statement explaining why they were not going to comply with Newsom’s July 13 coronavirus lockdown mandate, which renewed the shutdowns against houses of worship and other establishments the state deemed nonessential. Grace Community Church sued California officials earlier this week, alleging that they were violating the California State Constitution in six different ways by indefinitely suspending in-person worship services. MacArthur’s church is one of several in California that have chosen to disregard state and county authorities against in-person assembly.
Jenna Ellis, who served as legal counsel for MacArthur and the church, said in part, “This is a huge vindication for Pastor John and the Board of Elders at Grace Community Church, who have simply asked for their right to worship the Lord together in church to be acknowledged and protected. When I spoke with Pastor John after the hearing, he expressed sincere gratitude to the California Court and Judge Chalfant and said his congregation will be happy to comply with the judge’s temporary order.”
Co-counsel Charles LiMandri said, “This result is indeed a great victory for all citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of religion. Pastor MacArthur’s love of God and country motivated him and all the GCC church elders to resist the unjust government shut-down orders targeting people of faith.”
In a Thursday op-ed for The Daily Wire, MacArthur wrote, “Churches must keep the priorities in order. We cannot sacrifice robust spiritual health, the preaching of the gospel, and the gathering of the church for worship under the power of divine truth in order to guard people from something that is only slightly more threatening than the seasonal flu. We don’t ‘save lives’ in any way that counts for eternity by putting a muzzle on our public proclamation of the Word of life.”