By Jon Brown
A prominent evangelical church in Los Angeles is suing state and county officials in California after being threatened with fines and jail time for gathering together for indoor worship.
Grace Community Church, which is pastored by John MacArthur, made headlines last month when they resumed in-person assembly in defiance of Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s renewed lockdown order. MacArthur and the church retained the legal counsel of the Thomas More Society last week after receiving a cease and desist letter from Los Angeles County threatening $1,000 daily fines and imprisonment.
In the complaint made public Thursday, lawyers for the church argue that state and county officials are violating six parts of the California State Constitution with their indefinite lockdown orders against houses of worship. They also contrast the treatment of churches with that of the protesters whose demonstrations roiled the state in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The complaint reads in part:
[Americans] have witnessed how the onerous restrictions imposed on them by public officials to allegedly fight the COVID-19 pandemic simply do not apply to certain, favored groups. When many went to the streets to engage in “political protests” against “racism” and “police brutality,” these protestors refused to comply with the pandemic restrictions. Instead of enforcing the public health orders, public officials were all too eager to grant a de facto exception for these favored protestors. […] Having irreparably damaged the confidence of Americans – and Californians especially – who now realize that the pandemic restrictions are neither necessary nor good, on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Grace Community Church decided to resume worship services—joining millions of Americans in deciding that enough is enough. With deaths from the ‘COVID-19 suicide pandemic’ exceeding those from the actual coronavirus pandemic, Grace Community Church decided that it would no longer sit by and watch its congregants and their children suffer from an absence of religious worship and instruction. Perhaps unsurprisingly – perhaps not – this led the County of Los Angeles to submit a demand letter to Grace Community Church, ordering it to comply with the restrictions that Los Angeles County deems unnecessary to enforce against so many others. Grace Community Church does not intend to comply.
Grace Community Church is one of several churches in California that are flouting state and county rules against in-person assembly. Last week, Ventura County officials sued Pastor Rob McCoy of Grace Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, California, which is north of Los Angeles. A county judge slapped a restraining order on McCoy and up to 1,000 would-be parishioners who might gather for an indoor service.
“I wish it didn’t have to come to this, I really do, but we will be violating the judge’s order. We will be open this Sunday,” McCoy said.
In a recent sermon titled “Hope for Discouraged Saints,” MacArthur explained how he believes church is even more necessary as the coronavirus pandemic has forced many to face their mortality. “It’s a very dire time, and it is compounded by the fact that we feel like we’re being persecuted because we’re being told we can’t meet,” he said.