John MacArthur, Grace Community Church Sue California for Banning Indoor Worship but Allowing Protests

By Aysha Khan
John MacArthur Preaches at Grace Community Church
Pastor John MacArthur at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, July 26, 2020. Video screengrab via Vimeo/Grace Community Church

High-profile Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church have filed a lawsuit to continue holding indoor services in person after California issued a second lockdown order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley have accused state officials of violating the California Constitution by “unequally” restricting their free exercise of religion during the pandemic while allowing large racial justice protests to go unchecked.

The church initially complied with state restrictions but reopened its doors to several thousand worshippers in late July. Church leaders say that meeting and singing hymns together in person are commanded in the Bible.

For weeks, MacArthur — a prominent evangelical figure — has defied the state’s health orders by opening the doors of his church, allowing several thousand congregants to sing together.

Video streams of services show packed rows of worshippers with little to no social distancing or masks in use.

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“It is time for California to recognize that disfavored religious minorities are not second-class citizens,” states the lawsuit, filed Wednesday (Aug. 12) in the Superior Court of the State of California County of Los Angeles. “It is time for California to explain how it can justify banning worship to prevent the spread of a disease (with an overall mortality rate of 0.02%) while it is fine for protestors to spread that disease like wildfire.”

Grace Community Church, MacArthur
Congregants sing during the start of Sunday worship at Grace Community Church on July 26, 2020. Video screengrab via Vimeo/Grace Community Church

The suit names as defendants Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other public health and law enforcement officials in the state.

A Los Angeles County order issued July 29 limits indoor gatherings at houses of worship to 100 people or 25% of the building’s capacity, whichever is lower. Singing has also been banned for indoor services; health officials say chanting and singing “negate the risk-reduction achieved” through social distancing measures.

Los Angeles County attorneys have also sent a cease and desist letter to the megachurch threatening arrest or a daily fine of $1,000.

Constitutional law experts say the Supreme Court has recognized that the right to gather and worship can be suspended broadly for public health reasons. Restricting religious practices, not beliefs, during a pandemic is legal.

Grace Community Church leaders and their lawyers disagree.

” … California’s edicts demanding an indefinite shutdown have gone now far past rational or reasonable and are firmly in the territory of tyranny and discrimination,” said Jenna Ellis of the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm that is representing church leaders. “This isn’t about health. It’s about blatantly targeting churches.”

The church argues that the California and U.S. constitutions offer “heightened protection” to houses of worship “because our Founders recognized that the church has throughout world history been the target of secular kings and tyrants, not unlike Gavin Newsom.”

“In a society hostile to religion, banning worship might be justified to prevent deaths,” the lawsuit argues. “But how can California—the land of the Missions—justify unfairly imposing the burden of lowering coronavirus infection rates (not death rates) on worshippers?”

MacArthur said that no members of his church have been infected with COVID-19. Los Angeles County is currently reporting 1,500 to 2,000 new infections daily.

Aysha Khan is a reporter with Religion News Service



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22 thoughts on “John MacArthur, Grace Community Church Sue California for Banning Indoor Worship but Allowing Protests”

  1. To me, this is rather like saying that just because wildfires break out in California (and I am from California), it’s okay for me to be an arsonist.
    Protests, bad as they can be, aren’t the same as sitting in an enclosed area, with no mask, and virus droplets hanging in the air. And, most of the newer COVID-19 cases in California have not been traced back to the riots; they’re being traced back to people who don’t mind their social distancing and assist on attending group events. Other outbreaks are among essential workers who have trouble social distancing, both at work and at home (poor people living in crowded conditions). (see the link below)

    So, I don’t think MacArthur has a legal leg to stand on. Meanwhile, he is endangering the members of his flock.

    Like everyone else who loves Jesus, I want to go back to church. My own church is starting its first outdoor services this weekend. They are limited in attendance (you have to pre-register), masks are required for anyone age 5 and up and social distancing will be enforced. It’s just nice to be able to attend again, and I am excited. I appreciate the safeguards. I know that nothing is foolproof against the virus, but I prefer common sense over grandstanding on some non-existent civil right.

    1. Linn: BINGO!! Well said. Your balance of wisdom and common sense is very well appreciated by me and those of like mind. Personally I’m so tired of listening to brain-dead people spout off about this covid thing. I believe the church is and has been under attack for decades by outside forces who want to see it destroyed. But, I can’t imagine senseless comments I’ve heard by Christians like I’m good because I’m covered in the blood or this is all a plot cooked up by the Democrats. Thank you again for your refreshing widom.

  2. 1. MacArthur and the elders recognize that adults can decide to attend or watch online. They’re endangering no one.
    2. First it was “flatten the curve!”, then “no one can die!”, now it’s “no one can become infected!”. This is tyranny against all freedom loving Californians.
    3. Protests and riots are not protected by the first amendment. Churches are.

    Lastly, to accuse another Christian of “not loving” others is a judgment of the heart you have no authorization to make. You may disagree with MacArthur’s decision but you’ve no right to accuse him of “not loving” his flock.

    1. Every person that may become ill at MacArthur’s church and returns to the community has the potential to infect many other people with no connection to the church. That is not lioving your neighbor!

      1. Jessica Hockett

        Is this the first time you’re considering how people get infected from viruses?

        Are you alleging that churches are responsible for safeguarding the personal health of every congregant, as well as the people those congregants come into contact with after being at church?

        On what basis – biblical, legal, and practical – are you implicitly asserting that God has commanded churches to ensure that no one gets sick from viruses or bacteria unwittingly passed between humans at church?


          Based on evidence we have, churches are a perfect environment for getting sick. There are ways to meet that will make it less difficult to spread the virus, but they don’t include large services of hundreds of people without masks and no social distancing.

          However, if you choose to believe this is a “plandemic” or a conspiracy, then believe what you want. I can’t change that for you. However, I don’t think MacArthur is being responsible and he is putting other folks’ lives at risk.

          1. Jessica Hockett

            You didn’t answer any of my questions.

            I neither said nor suggested anything about a plandemic or conspiracy.

            Take care.

      2. @Linn — and how are they going to have the “potential to infect many other people?” You make it sound like the Corona virii just permeates the air around these people. All you have to do according to the CDC is wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands.

        There is a calculated risk to everything we do. And for me, the risk of catching the virus in a gathered worship service of our Lord and Savior is worth the risk. Online is not the same — opportunities for spontaneous prayer, fellowship, corporate singing, and accountability to name a few. If it is not worth the risk for you, then don’t go … and you don’t need to be concerned about catching the virus when you social distance and wear your mask. However, those of us who choose to take the risk because we feel it is worth it, are not going out and infecting others when we wear out masks in public and social distance and wash our hands as we have been instructed. Yes, I have seen reports of people being infected at church gatherings and all other kinds of gatherings for that matter. The vast overwhelming majority have recovered very well and doing fine.

        I am in the “greater risk” category because of my age and recent cancer surgery. I have the opportunity of loving my neighbor as I live out my faith and have the opportunity to tell them why I can live in confidence in these times because my eternity is secure. I can invite them to church where we have protocols in place for healthy interaction where they can hear the Gospel and be encouraged by others who are trusting God in these times rather than hiding in fear. How long do you plan stay out of the church gathered? A year or more? People are putting a lot of faith in a “vaccine” and I’m afraid they are going to be terribly disappointed.

        So I am loving my neighbor as I demonstrate that I live a life of faith (not stupidity or presumption) and invite them on the journey. I also socially distance from them when I am having conversations.

  3. @Linn – this isn’t “grandstanding on some non-existent civil right” (though I think you are wrong on the constitutional application – but we shall see). This is allowing the church to be the church and to gather so as to help promote spiritual growth and maturity. This discussion has already taken place in previous posts, so I am not going to spend any more time on it.

    1. I would agree with the above. Also did anyone detect a slight bias on the reporter’s part that seemed to not agree with MacArthur choosing to sue?

  4. Heeeeeeeeeers Johnny!

    Got get ’em John and put an end to the systematic abuse of power and political pandering that is now destroying the world!

    The last time I cared to look, even Vox admitted that 77% of the people who had Covid-19 didn’t know it or didn’t even have symptoms worth going to the doctor over. Another article I read a few days ago cited a European health organization report that over 70% of the world’s population has already been exposed to Covid-19 and are dropping over dead, the vast majority aren’t even treating the symptoms.

    Masks not only don’t work, but contribute to much higher rates of infection:

    This is the most politicized virus ever! When the numbers are vetted by application of actual science-fact, Covid-19 has not been much deadlier than the common winter flu of the 2012-2013 seasons. The vast majority of deaths attributed to Covid-19 are people who were going to die anyway whether it was complicated by Covid-19 or not, most would have died from any infection whether it was Covid-19, the common flu or common cold.

    This has been nothing but a massive boondoggle of sociopolitical engineering and propaganda fear mongering from day one!

  5. Well-done, Dr. MacArthur!

    I’m still baffled as to how and why certain believers can’t see the UN, the WHO and national health and information centers, the EU and of course the Vatican are pulling the wool over folks’ eyes with COVID19. Next thing you know they’re going to trample themselves under foot to get that vaccine that appeared out of thin air and that the Secretary of Health where I live acquired with blatant disregard for our Constitution from some shady company.

    We are experiencing the same problems here -that is protests against alleged racism in the country or in support of alleged racism in the States are allowed without any enforcement of the mask and 6 ft rules. But churches and schools remained closed. This is all about keeping us out of church, keeping our children ignorant and keeping us poor.

    As for Mrs. Royce’s bias, I noticed it too.

  6. Are you kidding me?

    Yes , I keep sensing a bias against Johnny Mac (not to be confused with Jimmy Mac, who stole a bunch of my tithes) because he holds to the biblical position of I Tim. 2:12; I Tim 3:1.

    1. WWJD? Well Jesus said told us what to do… DON’T BE AFRAID!
      Mark 6:50
      Mark 4:39-40
      1 Peter 3:14
      Mark 5:36
      Romans 8:38-39

      Imagine if everyone had the same attitude of fear … who would fight the fires, defuse the bomb, fight the wars, build things, operate the boilers, drive trucks, run machinery, mine coal and aggregate, cut the lumber…….. everything has risk. Sitting there playing on your phone or computer comes with the risk of being electrocuted or torn apart and burned by an exploding battery. Did you consider the risks of what you ate or drank today since any of it could easily have killed you from poisoning or is slowly killing you with GMO and other chemicals? Did you take the risks or choose to cower in fear?

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