Los Angeles County terminated a parking lot rental lease it held with Grace Community Church last week, an act that legal counsel for the church is describing as harassment and retaliation for having disobeyed the city’s coronavirus lockdown order.
In an Aug. 28 letter provided to The Daily Wire, Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works gave Grace Community Church 30 days’ notice that its lease for the parking lot was over and warned that any private property left on the premises after Oct. 1 would be confiscated. The church had been leasing a large portion of their lot from the county for 45 years, for which they paid $24,904.23 quarterly.
Grace Community Church has been wrangling in courts with Los Angeles County government since July, when Pastor John MacArthur and the church elders released a statement explaining why they were no longer going to comply with coronavirus lockdown orders forbidding in-person assembly.
After the county sought a temporary restraining order against MacArthur and the church, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled on Aug. 20 that no court order exists that prohibits them from gathering in-person, despite conflicting rulings from lower courts. On Aug. 25, the Superior Court denied a request from the county for a renewed restraining order, claiming it did not meet statutory requirements.
Thomas More Society special counsel Jenna Ellis, an attorney for the church, told The Daily Wire, “Los Angeles County is retaliating against Grace Community Church for simply exercising their constitutionally protected right to hold church and challenging an unreasonable, unlawful health order. In America, we have a judicial system to ensure that the executive branch does not abuse its power, and Grace Community Church has every right to be heard without fear of reprisal.”
“The Democrats’ message to Americans is clear—if you don’t bow to every whim of tyranny, the government will come after you,” she continued. “The Church has peacefully held this lease for 45 years and the only reason the County is attempting eviction is because John MacArthur stood up to their unconstitutional power grab. This is harassment, abusive, and unconscionable.”
Other California churches have been reeling from the state’s lockdown orders on houses of worship and other establishments authorities deem non-essential. As The Daily Wire reported, agents from Santa Clara County went into North Valley Baptist Church during its services recently to see if congregants were singing. In a four-page notice that was later plastered on its door, the church was informed that it was being fined $10,000 for holding two indoor services during which singing took place.
“This activity is unlawful,” the notice stated. “The county understands that singing is an intimate and meaningful component of religious worship. However, public health experts have also determined that singing together in close proximity and without face coverings transmits virus particles further in the air than breathing or speaking quietly.”
In a Facebook video that racked up millions of views, Senior Pastor Jack Trieber pleaded with state and local authorities to “back off,” adding, “Though health is [of the] utmost importance, spiritual health is supreme. Because we’ve been locked out in this county of churches, suicide is up, domestic violence, addiction is up, homelessness is up, alcoholism is up. We need to get back to worshiping God. I am commanded to worship God.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Grace Community Church pays $24,904.23 for its lease annually, which is the amount they pay quarterly.