A judge has denied the fourth attempt by Los Angeles County to shut down Grace Community Church.
The church and its pastor, John MacArthur, recently resumed indoor services amid COVID-19 orders against indoor church services. As a result, Los Angeles County has been seeking an emergency shutdown order in advance of a September 4 hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Pastor MacArthur was doing online-only services, but he says people began showing up unannounced. According to MacArthur, "they didn't buy the narrative" about COVID-19. MacArthur has more recently stated that guidelines from the government were virtually impossible for his church to comply with in order to have services. Meanwhile, MacArthur maintains that Jesus Christ is head of the Church, not Governor Gavin Newsom (D-California) or some other government official.
"This should signal to LA County that California courts will not quickly or easily trample the constitutionally protected rights of churches," says attorney Jenna Ellis of Thomas More Society, the law firm representing Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church.
"We maintain that their health order is unconstitutionally burdening the right of churches to worship," the attorney continues, "And there exists no rational basis, much less a compelling interest, to try to shut down indoor services at this point, particularly when the county is allowing strip clubs to operate and massive riots to take place – and not seeking restraining orders against them."
Ellis adds that attorneys "look forward to making those arguments at a subsequent proceeding, where we will ask the court to properly check this power grab by Los Angeles County and the State of California's executive branch."
Reacting to the judge's decision on Tuesday, MacArthur stated:
"We are very grateful to Judge Mitchel Beckloff for his reasoned opinion and for taking great care to review this very important matter. As I said in my declaration to the court, we see this action against us as an illegitimate misuse of power. It should shock the conscience of every Christian that churches are coming under assault from our own government simply for holding church. Church is essential."