A judge on Friday ruled that John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church can hold indoor services despite coronavirus health orders, as long as the church practices safety measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
Los Angeles County had sought a court order barring Grace from holding the services, arguing that they were an immediate health threat.
But Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant restricted his order to a requirement that worshipers wear masks and practice social distancing. He also set a September hearing on the county’s request for a preliminary injunction barring the church from holding indoor services at its building in the Sun Valley neighborhood or anywhere else in the state.
“I am very grateful the court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us,” Pastor John MacArthur said in a statement. “This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people.”
“We will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions,” he said.
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MacArthur has been holding services in recent weeks attended by throngs of worshipers in defiance of state and county limits on indoor gatherings. Those health orders aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19 but Grace and a few other churches consider them excessive and assaults on freedom of religion.
“This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. . . . We will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
The church sued Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials this week and Los Angeles County counter-sued.
“Los Angeles County’s first and only objective is to save lives and protect the health of our residents and communities,” county officials said in a statement, adding that “we will continue to work through the legal system to ensure that the health officer orders are upheld, as these are the best tools we currently have to slow the spread of this lethal virus.”
California this week became the first state to surpass 600,000 coronavirus cases.
Across the country the vast majority of churches have cooperated with health authorities and successfully protected their congregations. Yet from the earliest phases of the pandemic, and continuing to this day, some worship services and other religious activities have been identified as sources of local outbreaks.
A few churches have been openly defiant, including one in California’s Ventura County that held indoor worship services Sunday despite a judge’s temporary restraining order.
Pastor Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park had vowed to continue in-person services even though the order cited “an immediate threat to public health and safety.”
This week, a different judge declined a county request to order the immediate closure of the church.
Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld state COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings in a suit filed by South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California.
Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected on July 24 an appeal by a rural Nevada church to defy government COVID restrictions in a 5-4 decision joined by Chief Justice John Roberts. The ruling was sharply criticized in three separate conservative dissents.
17 thoughts on “Judge Rules that MacArthur’s Church Can Hold Indoor Services”
Still have to wear masks, no singing, and social distancing. So,nothing has really changed
Yes! May this set a precedent!
THE MASKS DON’T PROTECT YOU OR ME!!
“…From the earliest phases of the pandemic, and continuing to this day, some worship services and other religious activities have been identified as sources of local outbreaks.” Julie, what is your evidence for this assertion. I have been to two weddings with indoor receptions (no six foot rules), two graduation ceremonies (no rules) twelve hours on an airplane (much closer than six feet), twelve hours in an airport (with many ignoring mask and distance rules), five outdoor worship services (with no masks) 13 Bible studies with no masks and minimal distance), and I have not contracted COVID. For the two weddings, we are not aware of anyone who has contracted COVID. Your reporting with that sentence makes it seem as if you are one of those who has bought into all the rules. I recommend that you read the lead article of the latest issue of Imprimis to gain a truer understanding of what we have endured unnecessarily. Four Months of Unprecedented Government Malfeasance – Imprimis
CDC article about a superspreader event at choir practice.
Here’s your evidence PastorDaveJ,
A search for “church outbreaks” will provide you with many more examples across many states.
There is almost no faster way to spread the virus than unmasked people standing shoulder to shoulder. Even moreso when they are singing.
I pray that MacArthur will grasp this simple science and keep his congregation spaced and masked. Virtual services are still safer but the court has offered him a reasonable compromise and I hope he accepts it.
Mickey and Karl,
The problem I have with believing everything that the CDC (and Dr. Fauci) tell us is that they are not always right and they are learning as they go. For example, this was what the CDC warned us back in March:
“CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.”
Things have certainly changed a lot since March, haven’t they? Apparently, most people forgot that the CDC had advised this policy only a few months ago. Unfortunately, too many people take whatever the CDC (and Dr. Fauci) tell us at the current moment as “gospel truth.” Then, anyone who doesn’t totally fall in line with the latest government mandate is summarily accused of “not loving their neighbor.”
Moreover, for every story we can find about “church outbreaks,” there are obviously thousands of new COVID cases occurring every single day which have nothing to do with church gatherings. What is the cause of all these new outbreaks? Isn’t that where the focus should be? Why is there so much criticism and disdain leveled at churches?
Thus, I find it a bit troubling that so many Christians are doubling down and strongly condemning churches that want to reopen after many months of lockdowns. In every case, those congregants can choose to worship in person or they can stay at home. No one is forcing anyone to attend church in person. It is completely voluntary.
Anyway, I thought it was worthwhile to point out that many people (including many Christians) seem to be obsessed with the thought of any churches reopening, and they appear to be single-minded about it. Yet there are thousands of new COVID cases everyday which have nothing to do with church gatherings.
PASTORDAVEJ – I’m guessing you probably haven’t been tested – just a guess – and therefore wouldn’t know if you may actually have the virus and asymptomatic.
Based on your assertions, it sounds like most world governments are just conspiring to send out false information to the masses about the pandemic. Am I missing something here?
Hi Pastor Dave,
A thought from the pews for you…..cool your jets!! It can happen to anybody that reads the headlines….jumps into the story and never sees the source that wrote it.
The article is not written by Julie, it’s a cut and paste from the Associated Press news service. I come to her defense because I have listened to and watched Julie for many years. After a few years of listening to her on her old radio show I can assert she is the rare journalist who researches both sides of a story, reports clearly & firmly the facts including the uncomfortable details,while never hiding her conviction of love for Christ and His Church.
Very glad to hear you and your loved ones continue in good health, let’s pray that continues for all.
I am thankful that my church has decided not to hold any in person services until 2021. The responsible thing to do. They are promoting small groups & small gatherings.
By 2021, we will not have the right to gather in person for church anymore because not enough Christians are fighting to keep that right today. Grace Church seems a rarity to me. Listen, Hebrew 10:27 tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Acts reminds us when obeying man’s laws isn’t right. How can a true Believer accept Government mandates to not sing praise to their true King? Have you not heard of Russia, Prussia, Germany, and China? What kind of America do you want?
The death rate of COVID19 continues to DROP even as the number of cases continues to rise, and the number of recoveries is soaring over a million.
My comment is in response to the other comments who seem to have consumed the koolaid.
If people won’t stand now for the right of churches to gather, when will they stand for the church? Where’s the line? Is there anything more essential than people’s spiritual health? Matthew 10:28 says no.
Seems to me most folks with an opinion about haven’t even read the church’s statement or about it, or heard MacArthur’s July 26th sermon.
People can twist Scripture all they want, but Hebrews 10:25 is referring to the physical gathering of God’s people. GCC isn’t forcing people to show up – and is still streaming its services. No church makes accommodations for everyone’s personal health, or takes responsibility for preventing the human-to-human transmission of viruses.
Like Peter & John, Grace Church’s Elders have determined they should listen to God rather than to California authorities (Acts 4:19). Hopefully, their faithfulness will encourages more churches to follow suit.
I am thankful that this Judge gave a fair ruling to Grace Church – they can meet in person in the church, just need to wear masks and do distancing.
If Christians can only meet online via a computer/phone related device over the internet, then in the long run we lose freedom of gathering without supervision of some kind. Ultimately Zoom is not private. Your speech can be heard and your face can be seen by workers who access the videos or the meetings. A ruler unfriendly to the church idea can choose to monitor all online communications. People’s private counseling sessions and other clips have been exposed on the internet already, as reported in the news.
Let us do in person gatherings as much as we can. Small group size is fine. But let’s not forbid large size gatherings of believers. It encourages us to see there are many of us who follow the Savior Jesus, Who purchased the church with His blood. Exercise caution for health reasons in reasonable ways. But we must guard our spiritual health and relationship with Christ with one heart, one spirit, and singing praises to Jesus!
We don’t realize how precious this freedom is to worship God openly!
A quote from John MacArthur from Sunday:
“You’re here; you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks. And it’s also good news that you’re not outside. The Lord knew you needed to be inside and unmasked.”
You did not include part of his quote. I included the part you left out in quotation marks below:
And it’s also good news that you’re not outside “because it’s very hot out there.” So the Lord knew you needed to be inside and unmasked. So He did us that gracious favor.
The quote was from the Baptist News article.
Thanks for updating. It is good to know that John MacArthur and GCC needed to be inside so that they didn’t get hot. That makes it better.
I don’t see how this ruling makes anything different? It’s always been about providing a way for attendees to socially distance themselves and wear masks. Maybe I’m missing it, but this sounds like a lot of noise for attention.
For the last month, my church has held services you must register for, to cap attendance in such a way that socially distancing is possible. They also take your temperature upon arrival, and require masks. They provide communion packets as well (versus the “breaking off the bread” one by one), both in person and via pickup. Service is also streamed online.
We are able to hold service because we have the resources to make safe worship possible. I refuse to believe Macarthurs church doesn’t have the same resources.
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