Grace Community Church and LA County See Today’s Superior Court Action Differently; Updated with Court Orders

Today, Judge Mitchell Beckloff of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles twicw took up the matter of the County of Los Angeles v. Grace Community Church. According to the minute orders available from the County of LA court website, the judge ruled that the “Defendants (Grace Community Church) request for ‘expedited preliminary injunction discovery’ and a continuance of the hearing is denied.” Both sides came away declaring a positive outcome and another hearing is slated for Monday, August 24.

Read today’s order from Judge Beckloff (8:30am hearing)

Read today’s order from Judge Beckloff (3pm hearing)

In a press release, Grace Community Church said, “The Los Angeles County Superior Court announced on August 20, 2020, that there is no court order prohibiting Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from holding indoor worship services.” On the other hand, an LA County press release said, “A Superior Court judge has affirmed a state Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the validity of Los Angeles County‚Äôs Health Officer Order, including the prohibition on indoor church services, which a Sun Valley church has challenged as unconstitutional.”

Although I could get no further comment from either camp, the fact is that the prohibition on indoor services was never a court order. It is a Health Order from the LA County Health Officer. The Court of Appeal upheld the validity of the Health Officer’s Order and according to the LA County press release, the Superior Court judge today affirmed that ruling. Although the statement is not recorded in his order, it is possible that the judge said today that there is no court order prohibiting indoor worship while at the same time validating the Health Officer’s Order.

On August 24, LA County will ask LA Superior Court to consider issuing a temporary restraining order prohibiting indoor services. If such an order is issued, future services could be the basis for a contempt citation and fines.

See all articles on Grace Community Church v. LA County

 

 

52 thoughts on “Grace Community Church and LA County See Today’s Superior Court Action Differently; Updated with Court Orders”

    1. So Giancarlo Granda finally went public about his 20-year sexual relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Falwell.

      1. The good news is that ETTD* is in play here, so this means JMac will get his legal a*s kicked.

        *ETTD = Everything Trump Touches Dies.

      2. Based on that clip (although didn’t really show the audience) doesn’t look like people were wearing masks again.

  1. The confusion is inherent in civil practice (and legal practice generally), where you often have documents entitled “Plaintiff’s Second Amended Reply to Defendant’s First Amended Answer to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint, with Exhibits”. To keep the record straight (good luck with that!), a judge has to correctly repeat the various titles of complaints, answers, amended complaints, and amended answers, to say nothing of intervening motions to compel, motions for sanctions, motions to intervene, and a plethora of other obscurely titled pleadings. And this practice varies wildly from state to state.

    Which explains my preference for criminal law.

    Near as I can figure, and I welcome correction, LA County inspectors went to Grace Community Church to investigate information that the church was conducting indoor services in defiance of the Health Order. They were refused entry, so the County went to court to seek a kind of declaratory judgment that the Health Order was valid. The court basically said yes, but allowed indoor services pending a trial on the merits. The County took an emergency appeal, the appellate court reversed the part of the trial court’s order allowing indoor services and returned the case to that court for the scheduled trial and other proceedings. MacArthur did what we figured he would, and defied the Health Order.

    I do not vouch for the accuracy of the above because I simply don’t have the time to graph the whole thing out, but I think it’s fairly close. Not that this clears anything up…

  2. Thanks for the update, Warren.

    If the County Health Department has no say in a church, what about the Fire Department for violations of the fire code? What about structural building code violations. Where does it end?

    1. The County Health Department most definitely has “say in a church”. Not sure where you get that they don’t. Other than from MacArthur.

    2. The argument is that it ends where the government encroaches on religious practices. Building code violations are not religious practices; nor are fire codes. Such restrictions do not prevent a church from carrying out their religious practices. Telling a church it cannot meet, or that only part of it can meet, does encroach on religious practices. Whether or not that is convincing is up to each to decide, but that is the argument in play.

      1. You do understand that if the church building gets shut down due to a fire code violation then it would be that the congregation cannot meet. By the way, this undercuts MacArthur’s argument.

        The church can meet outside on their property just fine. They can meet inside their building as long as the various COVID protocols are followed. Just like they can meet in that building as long as they have a current occupancy permit and up to the maximum number on that permit. Just like they can meet in that building as long as they have current sign-off from the Fire Marshall regarding sprinklers, smoke detectors, emergency exits, etc.

      2. You do understand that if the church building gets shut down due to a fire code violation then it would be that the congregation cannot meet. By the way, this undercuts MacArthur’s argument.

        The church can meet outside on their property just fine. They can meet inside their building as long as the various COVID protocols are followed. Just like they can meet in that building as long as they have a current occupancy permit and up to the maximum number on that permit. Just like they can meet in that building as long as they have current sign-off from the Fire Marshall regarding sprinklers, smoke detectors, emergency exits, etc.

        1. Matter of fact, meeting outside (under pavillion tent roofs) is what a lot of churches in my area are currently doing. Might be hard to do for a Mega the size of JMac’s ego.

          1. He would have to rent the biggest tent used by Cirque du Soleil. For the big top used by this company, it typically takes 8 days to set up the tent site with approximately 100 local citizens hired as temporary staff overseen by one of the company’s tent masters. Of course, there would be a particular irony if JMac were to use a Cirque du Soleil tent.

        2. No. In such a fire code violation, the congregation could meet elsewhere. In this case, the congregation is prevented from meeting elsewhere. It seems you don’t understand the CA restrictions.

          1. They can meet outside. They can have virtual services.

            However, this does avoid the question of emergency powers which I submit the state has and can use to tell the church not to meet indoors.

          2. GCC can’t meet outside both in terms of space required for parking and for distancing and in terms of heat/weather. Our church is able to meet outside and we do that. We have gone inside only for weather and have done so with social distance requirements. Virtual services are not substitutes for the church. A virtual service, by definition, isn’t a gathering.

            The question at hand is whether or not the government can make a law restricting the free exercise of religion. I contend that, while I think churches should not meet indoors, it is not within the purview of the government to decide that. And historically, the government has agreed.

          3. Not in health epidemics as church (and other meetings were shut down) in 1918. SCOTUS precedent in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) and Compagnie Francaise de Navigation a Vapeur v. Louisiana Board of Health, 186 U.S. 380 (1902) make it clear that local and state health departments have great leeway during epidemics (as long as the restrictions are applied without favoritism and are broadly-based).

          4. As the judge pointed out, churches are not entitled to equal protection, but to special protection under the law. And the restrictions are not being applied without favoritism.

          5. Provide one example of an indoor venue (mosque, movie theater, etc.) in CA that is allowed to disregard the health department guidelines and provide the link. Otherwise your 2nd sentence is incorrect.

          6. Airplanes are enclosed spaces where people crowd in and shared a space much more crowded and much smaller than a church. Why are those allowed?

          7. Commercial air travel is outside the jurisdiction of any California health orders — only the FAA has authority to allow or disallow their operation.
            Care to try again to find a relevant example?

          8. Not just the churches. any large indoor gathering is prohibited. MacArthur and his followers seem to think their bible is a “get out of jail free” card and it isn’t. they keep trying to frame the argument as if the state is “attacking” the church, but the reality is that the church is under the mistaken belief that because they are a church, the law doesn’t apply to them.

          9. And since the health department restrictions apply to any and all indoor gatherings, MacArthur does not have a legal leg to stand on. He would have a case if it was applied unequally (like giving a mosque or another church or a movie theater and such a pass and not him). But that has not happened here.

          10. And since the health department restrictions apply to any and all indoor gatherings, MacArthur does not have a legal leg to stand on. He would have a case if it was applied unequally (like giving a mosque or another church or a movie theater and such a pass and not him). But that has not happened here.

          11. It is amazingly difficult to save people from themselves, when they are determined not to let you.

      3. Large indoor gatherings, including church, are heavily restricted right now in LA County. The nearest analogue to what MacArthur’s Grace Community Church is doing is the Regency Van Nuys Plant 16 movie theatres is closed. The first movie that MIGHT open there is Wonder Woman 1984 on October 2. The fact is that MacArthur and his bunch think they are more privileged than the rest of us to be able to defy Health Department orders. Frankly, I wish Johnny Mac and the rest of his elders would be rounded up and taken to the pokey.

        1. Any updates from Scottsdale? Is serial abuser Mark Driscoll acting responsibly during quarantine? And was there any blowback from that Dream Center pastor claiming to have a ventilation system that kills Covid-19? Didn’t Arizona become the global hotspot for infections shortly after such reckless claims?

          1. I’ve been sticking pretty close to home. The run up to Phoenix and Dream Center was the last time I was more than six miles from my house. (The six miles is the distance to my mother’s house, where a sibling is primary caretaker and I’m secondary caretaker.) Thus, I haven’t been to Scottsdale lately and, really, right now it’s just so hot…

            We’re generally doing better with COVID-19 here in Arizona, no thanks to our governor. It took local mayors to basically implement mask orders to bring down the infection rate. My local school district (largest in the state) has delayed the first day of in-person classes until after Labor Day, but we’ll see what happens. Far too many churches are back to in-person services, which I think is irresponsible.

        2. I get that you wish that but we live in a country of laws. Everyday in CA, planes fly with people in close contact in an enclosed space, in fact, much less space than in a church with little to no fresh air. Everyday, people crowd into stores and businesses and create risk for others. Don’t tell me being in a church is more dangerous than that. It’s not. The constitution prohibits laws restricting the free exercise of religion. This is an easy one.

          You too are welcome to defy health department orders. Go to church if you wish. Stay home if you wish. But give people room to disagree with you. I am convinced MacArthur did the right thing. I don’t think I would have done it but I understand why he did. Why not give people freedom? You don’t have to participate.

          I am old enough to remember when the right was being accused of wanting to control every aspect of people’s lives and denying them freedom. But as we have seen, it is actually the left that is far more interested in that.

          1. How is this restricting the free exercise of religion when they are able to have their service indoors as long as the follow the covid mitigation protocols? There is no restriction because the COVID rules for indoor venues are applied EQUALLY to all indoor venues in CA. This is why JMac will LOSE.

          2. They can’t have services indoors. There are no covid mitigation protocols. And being applied equally isn’t the constitution. As the original judge pointed out, religious has special protections that others don’t have.

          3. I think you misread something. In CA there ARE NO large indoor gatherings allowed. It was the trial judge (Chalfant) who issued a ruling allowing for GCC to have indoor services provided they kept distant and wore masks.

          4. *tartly* Airlines are requiring flyers to wear masks.

            John MacArthur is very definitely not requiring masks.

            Try again!

          5. *tartly* Not always, but that’s not the point anyway. CA has prohibited indoors even with masks.

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