Church cleared of 'outbreak,' but legal battle will go on
Friday, November 20, 2020
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)
The legal battle between Grace Community Church and Los Angeles County will continue into the new year.
Pastored by John MacArthur, Grace Community Church has been holding indoor worship services since the end of July. Los Angeles County frowns on large gatherings, saying people need to combat the spread of COVID-19. The church filed a lawsuit against the county on August 12, resulting in a lawsuit from the county that same day. All parties have been in and out of court since. (See related timeline)
One News Now spoke with the law firm representing Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church.
"The county is trying to hold the church in contempt for violating the court's preliminary injunction, so there is actually a trial set now for January 15 where the court will hear testimony and consider whether to hold Pastor MacArthur and the church in contempt for holding indoor services in defiance of the court's preliminary injunction order," says attorney Paul Jonna with Thomas More Society. "So, our position, the church's position, is that the order is unconstitutional."
According to Jonna, his firm believes the courts will agree.
"We have currently pending multiple petitions at the U.S. Supreme Court we could hear next week or next month," the attorney continues. "We could get the five justices we need to enjoin these restrictions, because we previously had four in a different case we were involved in. But with Justice Barrett on the Court, these restrictions could easily be enjoined with five votes."
Meanwhile, Jonna points out that a court in San Diego recently ruled that strip clubs had constitutional protections that entitled them to stay open despite the shutdown orders.
"They said that the dancing was 'protected speech,'" he explains. "So, I mean, the absurdity in California right now with judges saying there's constitutional protections for strip clubs and not churches, we're quite confident that ultimately this will get sorted out the right way."
Last month (October 2020), public health officials in Los Angeles County announced outbreak-related requirements and restrictions Grace Community Church, saying three cases connected to the church were confirmed. This week, the church announced it had been cleared.
"The definition of an outbreak in L.A. is three or more positive cases from three different households in a 14-day period," says Jonna. "So, we question whether cases of that small number really should constitute an outbreak, but be that as it is, we've been cleared."
Jonna adds the tactics that the county used were quite aggressive for the church.
"If you look at the website of all the supposed outbreaks, they were one of the lowest numbers on the county websites – but they used this as a justification to show up outside of business hours during church services demanding information well beyond the scope of what they were entitled to and just showing up unannounced without scheduling appointments like normal," explains Jonna.
He concludes by pointing out that only two of the cases were tied to the church services or to the church at all. "… It seemed like they were really trying to catch the church in a gotcha moment, but they never did," says Jonna.
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