An injunction has been issued against John MacArthur and his California church preventing them from holding indoor worship services for now.
It is the latest twist in a longrunning dispute between Grace Community Church and Los Angeles County over the former’s refusal to suspend in-person worship services inside its building.
The continuation of in-person services by MacArthur and his church violates California Governor Gavin Newsom’s mandate ordering the closure of places of worship in some counties.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court has now said in a written verdict that the “balance of harms tips in favor of the county.”
“The potential consequences of community spread of Covid-19 and concomitant risk of death to members of the community — associated and unassociated with the Church — outweighs the harm that flows from the restriction on indoor worship caused by the County Health Order,” said Judge Mitchell L Beckloff.
Grace Community Church can continue to hold outdoor worship services only if it complies with county mandates on physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings.
MacArthur said the ruling was “inexplicable.”
“[The] judge said the ‘scale tipped in favor of the county.’ 1/100th of 1% of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the US Constitution and religious freedom for all?” he said.
“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.”
His lawyer, Jenna Ellis, of the Thomas More Society, said the verdict was a “temporary setback” and that the fight to hold in-person services indoors would continue.
“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,” Ellis said.
“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.”