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Church Culture

MacArthur’s Church Meets in Defiance of Government Prohibition

The back-and-forth between church and local authorities continues

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Can they meet, or can they not?  

On Friday, a California judge ruled that megachurch pastor John MacArthur and his congregation can continue meeting indoors for worship.  But they must wear face coverings and practice social distancing, according to a California Superior Court judge’s order. 

Hours later, the California Court of Appeal issued a stay of the lower court’s order, allowing the county’s Health Order to remain in effect and prohibiting John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church from meeting indoors.

On Sunday morning, the church met anyway — inside, unmasked, and without adhering to social distancing.

MacArthur noted the church’s defiance during the service, saying, “the good news is that you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks.” The congregation cheered in response.

Los Angeles County health officials had sought temporary restraining order barring the church from violating health orders that ban large indoor meetings and singing during meetings. 

MacArthur and his church had been meeting for weeks with no social distancing or mask. The church’s elders and the pastor had previously claimed that the government had no authority to regulate their worship services. 

The church filed suit last week, saying the state’s restrictions on large group meetings and singing restricted its religious freedom. County officials then sued the church. They are seeking an injunction to require the church to comply with COVID-19 restrictions — including barring large group indoor worship and requiring social distancing at outdoor worship.

A hearing on the preliminary injunction scheduled on September 4.

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Bob Smietana

Bob has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.