Over the weekend, Pastor John MacArthur led a packed Sunday morning worship service indoors at Grace Community Church, directly defying state and local health orders.
Grace Church and MacArthur had been sued by the county earlier in August as well for holding indoor services. However, MacArthur refuses to abide by the laws and orders set up by local and state authorities, claiming "this is not constitutional, but more importantly, it goes against the will of the Lord of the church, who calls us together."
On Thursday, a temporary restraining order had been issued to the church by a judge to cease conducting indoor services, as they would provide "an immediate threat to public health and safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic." L.A. Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff had also ordered the church to practice safe social distancing and to wear masks if they were to hold outdoor services. Beckloff stated that "The county persuasively argues congregants of the church are not isolated amongst themselves, but circulate within the county outside of their times together in religious worship. All citizens of the community therefore -- even those who do not worship at the church -- would be at risk of infection through community spread."
Along with the safety and closure orders, the Department of Public Health stated they would be available to all businesses and institutions should they need "assistance with understanding how to comply with the health officer orders while continuing to offer permitted services to the community as safely as possible." However, Grace Community Church still is not satisfied, and their attorney Charles LiMandri explained there will be an appeal to the ruling. The church believes that the ruling did not 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."
This past Sunday, MacArthur mocked the requirements demanded by the county during his service reading them aloud and eliciting laughter from the congregation. MacArthur wanted the church to understand the long list of safety measures being asked of them so that the parishioners could understand how following these orders would be "utterly impossible."
Attorney Amnon Siegel, on behalf of the county, believes MacArthur to be encouraging dangerous COVID-19 risk behavior rather than promoting safe social distancing. Siegel stated, "We need to take action to protect the community. This is not a close call, this is not a close question."