L.A. County asked the Superior Court to make a ruling on Grace Community Church’s refusal to comply with pandemic health orders. On Thursday it did, siding with pastor John MacArthur and the church’s decision to continue their indoor services.

Against L.A. County’s health orders and even a California Court of Appeal ruling, Grace Community Church in Sun Valley continued to gather indoors, although it did so with mask and social distancing regulations that had been suggested to churches before the statewide shutdown orders.

“We are pleased with the outcome today,” Jenna Ellis of the Thomas More Society Special Counsel said in a statement. “Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff correctly found there is no court order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services.”

Ellis added, “L.A. County continues to harass and target Pastor MacArthur. We will simply continue to defend our client’s constitutionally protected rights because church is essential.”

Indoor operations in establishments such as restaurants, shopping malls and places of worship had been ordered to close by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 1. That led to several churches opting to hold their services in parking lots; while making attempts to keep with the county and state’s social distancing and mask regulations.

A Los Angeles County media release stated that Grace Community Church “has continued to hold large, indoor services that dramatically increase the potential for COVID-19 transmission.”

On July 29, L.A. County sent MacArthur a cease and desist letter, to which the pastor responded with a lawsuit that stated, “The American people have begun to see that they are being ‘kicked’ by their own government. They 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.”

In the lawsuit, MacArthur claimed the government showed favoritism toward protesters’ rights, allowing them to break health regulations, while churches had their constitutional right to “Free Exercise and Enjoyment of Religion without Descrimination or Preference,” violated.

Ellis said the church expects to be taken to court again, as the battle between MacArthur and L.A. County is ongoing.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly