A California superior court ruled in favor of the First Amendment and Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church this week, while smacking down Los Angeles County officials.
The Los Angeles megachurch closed its doors in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. It announced plans to re-open in May, but a federal court upheld the state’s ban on indoor services, KTLA reported.
Pastor MacArthur slowly opened back up in July, and offered an outdoor tent for services, until thousands of his parishioners were attending. But LA County tried to enforce a limit of 100 on church service attendees – a tiny fraction of the megachurch congregation.
“The renowned pastor and his well-known church in Sun Valley, took the stance that church is essential,” the Thomas Moore Society reported. “The court affirmed that position, recognizing the constitutionally protected right of churches to remain open and to hold indoor services in their sanctuary.”
🚨BREAKING w/ @PaulJonna:
An HISTORIC WIN today for @johnmacarthur and @GraceComChurch! Judge allows indoor services with singing and no attendance cap! Church agrees to adhere to mask and social distancing until full hearing.
FIRST CA Court to recognize #ChurchIsEssential!
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 14, 2020
The Los Angeles area congregation was represented by Jenna Ellis and the Rancho Santa Fe headquartered law firm of LiMandri & Jonna. Thomas More Society Special Counsel Erick Kaardal assisted the all-star team in putting forth MacArthur’s case.
In an interview this week, MacArthur told KTLA:
“We’re a church, and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health.”
Thomas More Society explains:
Hours after Grace Community Church filed suit to invalidate Los Angeles County’s unconstitutional restrictions on churches, the county filed for a temporary restraining order to force the church to stop holding indoor services and comply with unreasonable and over-broad demands.
Judge James Chalfant denied almost all of the county’s requests at the August 14 Los Angeles Superior Court hearing, agreeing with MacArthur and the church that it is the county’s burden to show why they should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion.
Attorneys for Grace Community Church explained that Los Angeles County was being unreasonable in its demands, and offered to have the congregation comply with face mask wearing and social distancing indoors until the matter could be fully heard. This was stipulated as a more reasonable action that that of the county’s rush to shut down church services. The judge agreed and set the full hearing for September 4, 2020, ordering the church to have congregants wear masks and social distance between family groups indoors.
“I am very grateful the court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us because he is allowing is to meet,” MacArthur said. “This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. This also gives us an opportunity to show that we are not trying to be rebellious or unreasonable, but that we will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
“This is a huge vindication for Pastor John and the Board of elders at Grace Community Church, who have simply asked for their right to worship the Lord together in church to be acknowledged and protected,” Attorney Jenna Ellis said.
“This result is indeed a great victory for all citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of religion,” LiMandri said. “This result makes it possible for the thousands of congregants of Grace to continue to gather together in their church to worship, while at the same time honoring the court’s requirement that reasonable and temporary safety measures be observed.
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