The Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction against Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur that prohibits the church from "conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services."
Lawyers for the church say the court order also bans outdoor worship unless onerous restrictions are followed.
The attorneys from the Thomas More Society said the judge refused to consider their important separation of powers arguments "in any meaningful fashion" and essentially "ducked the issue."
"We are disappointed in the ruling on the preliminary injunction as the court did not apply the strict scrutiny analysis to the government order that we believe is required by the California Constitution and legal precedent," says TMS special counsel Charles LiMandri.
He goes on to say that "the court also did not properly consider the medical and scientific evidence that the current number of people with serious COVID-19 symptoms no longer justifies a shuttering of the churches. Nor do we believe that the court gave adequate consideration to the fact that churches have been treated as second-class citizens compared to the tens of thousands of protestors."
LiMandri says they plan to appeal this ruling to "ultimately vindicate our clients' constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion."
Pastor MacArthur also issued this statement:
“In an inexplicable ruling, the judge said the ‘scale tipped in favor of the county.’ 1/100th of 1% of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all? That is not what our founders said. Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government—including the judicial branch—is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches."
Politics behind the restrictions?
Dr. Barbara Ferrer is the L.A. County official who has been leading the charge to keep Pastor MacArthur and his church from holding indoor worship services. During a recent conference call with school officials, Ferrer – director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health – was discussing when school campuses can open up and children can return to classes. Her comments (below) suggest the mask mandates, social distancing, and other COVID-related restrictions exist for political reasons:
Ferrer: "We don't realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either Tier II or reopening K-12 schools at least through, at least until after the election – you know, in early November."
She stated again later:
Ferrer: "When we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us the more realistic approach to this is to think that we're going to be where we are now until we are done with the elections."
After four court hearings and the county levying fines and annexing a church parking lot, his congregation began getting suspicious about the county's actions, says MacArthur.
"After about three weeks or maybe by the fourth week, our people didn't believe the narrative any longer," the pastor told American Family Radio on Thursday. "They had enough common sense to know that what was originally supposed to be a disaster where millions of people were going to die just was being misrepresented.
"More and more of our people and other people were coming to the conclusion that this was a manufactured pandemic," MacArthur added.
Ferrer's hot mic moment may have been confirmation of those suspicions.