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Church Culture

Judge Grants Injunction Barring John MacArthur, Grace Community Church from Meeting Indoors

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Grace Community Church, prohibiting Pastor John MacArthur from holding indoor worship services.

The County of Los Angeles has sought to stop the megachurch from hosting indoor services that have filled the sanctuary with many unmasked congregants sitting next to each other in recent weeks. 

The battle between the church and the county has raged since MacArthur began holding indoor services again in late July. Los Angeles County attorneys sent a cease and desist letter to the megachurch, threatening arrest or a daily fine of $1,000. MacArthur and GCC filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming California has applied the protections of the U.S. and state constitutions unequally. The county responded by evicting the church from a parking lot they’ve leased for 45 years. 

County officials sent a statement to Religion News Service, saying they were grateful for the court’s decision to uphold the county’s COVID-19 public health orders that temporarily ban indoor religious services.

In the statement, the county noted that more than 6,000 Los Angeles County residents have died from the virus.

“We went to court only after significant efforts to work with the leaders of Grace Community Church to protect public health,” the statement read. 

“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.”

Thomas More Society, who represents MacArthur and GCC, expressed disappointment that the court did not consider decreased COVID-19 numbers or “apply the strict scrutiny analysis to the government order that we believe is required by the California Constitution and legal precedent.”

Attorney Jenna Ellis said Thomas More Society will continue to fight for MacArthur and GCC. 

Grace Community Church was not immediately reached for comment. The county will allow outdoor services if congregants wear face coverings and practice physical distancing, according to the court order.

In the past, church leaders have downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic and said that they will follow the Bible instead of government regulations.

“We will obey God rather than men. We’re going to be faithful to our Lord,” MacArthur told his congregants in a July 31 video. “We’re going to leave the results to him.”

MacArthur and the church’s elders say Grace Community Church’s actions are founded on biblical principles. According to a statement, church leaders believe that the government is charged with protecting civic order and well-being. But the government can’t dictate “the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church.”

Alejandra Molina

Alejandra is a national reporter for Religion News Service where she covers Latinos and religion. Her work has appeared in the AP, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Press-Enterprise, and Orange County Register.