KNX 1070 Radio is reporting that Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued an injunction today that prevents Grace Community Church from engaging in indoor worship services.
L.A. County had sought an injunction against the church for refusing to abide by the County’s Health Order banning indoor worship services. Grace Community Church had been having such services without following masking and social distancing guidelines for over a month.
L.A. County issued this statement to me:
We are grateful that the Court has granted the County’s request for a preliminary injunction and upheld the County’s Health Officer Orders temporarily prohibiting indoor religious services during this time of widespread community transmission of COVID-19. Religious services are central to many of our residents’ lives, especially in these trying times, and services have been allowed to be held online and outdoors with physical distancing and the use of face coverings, and they may continue to do so. The issue is a reminder that we must all work together and modify our activities to contain and slow this virus, which has caused the death of more than 6,000 Los Angeles County residents and has made thousands of others gravely ill.
We went to court only after significant efforts to work with the leaders of Grace Community Church to protect public health. We now look forward to working with church leaders on a plan to move services outdoors with physical distancing and the use of face coverings, which will allow worshipers to gather for religious observances in a manner that is lower risk and consistent with public health directives. This protects worshipers and the entire County community.
On August 30, MacArthur told his congregation that there is no pandemic and doubled down on that claim the following Sunday. Then, he falsely claimed that only “one hundredth of one percent” CA residents had COVID. The percentage as of now is 1.8%.
Grace Church issued a press release after I published this post. Here is most of it with comments from the attorneys and John MacArthur.
Special Counsel Charles LiMandri said, “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. 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. More than ever, California’s churches are essential. Therefore, we plan to appeal this ruling to ultimately vindicate our clients’ constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.”
Special Counsel Jenna Ellis said, “Although this is a temporary setback, we will continue to fight for Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s constitutionally protected right to hold church. While the judge did go out of his way to repeatedly state that he is not ruling on the merits, only a ruling at this very preliminary stage, Pastor MacArthur is still harmed because he has every right to hold church. Church is essential, and no government agent has the runaway, unlimited power to force churches to close indefinitely. The County’s argument was basically ‘because we can,’ which is the very definition of tyranny. Without limiting government’s power in favor of freedom and protected rights, we have no liberty. We will fight for religious freedom, as our founders did when they wrote the First Amendment.”
Pastor John MacArthur said, “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.”
It is baffling to me where MacArthur is getting his “1/100th of 1%” figure. If he was accurate, CA would only have 4,000 cases. Instead, CA has just over 749,000 cases for about 1.9% of the population. He has yet to respond to my requests about this claim or others he made this past Sunday.
While there is no hint in these statements about what MacArthur and Grace will do Sunday, there is no indication he will back off. The next scheduled hearing is October 22.