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Church Culture

LA County Clears John MacArthur’s Church of COVID-19 Outbreak

Los Angeles public health officials have cleared John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church of an earlier COVID-19 outbreak and lifted all outbreak-related requirements and restrictions on the church.

“We are glad to announce that we received a notice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health…saying that we have been cleared of COVID-19 outbreak,” the church announced on its website.

The county requires that churches report whenever at least three people test positive for COVID-19 within a two-week period, which public health officials consider an “outbreak.”   

In mid-October, LA County reported that four people related to Grace tested positive for COVID-19. According to Grace, three of those sick with COVID were part-time employees.

Since July, the church has defied government bans on indoor worship and has gathered thousands each week for Sunday services, many of whom do not wear masks or social distance.

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MacArthur and the elders of Grace have said that meeting for weekly worship is the church’s duty and that the church will not be “subject to Caesar,” but to God.

In response to the confirmed cases last month, Jenna Ellis, attorney for the church, contended that the three cases were not an “outbreak,” given that more than 7,000 people attend the Sun Valley, California, church.

“Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news: 0.0004 or 0.043 percent is not an ‘outbreak.’” Ellis said. “It has never been the church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely…is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.”

LA County continues its ban on indoor services. Coronavirus cases have doubled in California over the last month. And LA county recorded more than 6,800 cases over the weekend.

Over the past several months, Grace Community Church and MacArthur have been locked in a legal battle with the county over the restrictions. 

The county initially threatened Grace and MacArthur with fines and arrest when they refused to comply. Then, when the church and MacArthur sued the county, LA County petitioned the court to hold Grace and MacArthur in contempt.

Last week, a superior court judge set a January 15 date for the contempt hearing. The judge also said he would allow Grace to depose county officials and call witnesses in the upcoming hearing.

In a video two months ago, MacArthur said he considers the government’s response to coronavirus a deception perpetrated by “the arch-deceiver, Satan himself.”

He added that “it does not surprise me that (government officials) want to shut down those who preach the gospel because the architects of this level of deception are not a part of the kingdom of heaven. They’re a part of the kingdom of darkness.”

Julie Roys

Julie is a graduate of both Wheaton College and the prestigious Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She and her husband, Neal, live in the Chicago suburbs and have three children.