John MacArthur’s Los Angeles-area megachurch, which has defied county orders banning indoor worship services, has three confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to LA County officials.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has not said whether the confirmed cases involve Grace Community Church staff or congregants. However, public health officials say they are investigating the “outbreak” and “will work closely with the church to support outbreak management strategies that can limit transmission of COVID-19.”
Grace has an estimated attendance of 7,000. And under a county health order, places of worship must report to public health when at least three coronavirus cases are identified among church staff or congregation within a span of 14 days.
Grace Community Church was not immediately available for comment and there is no information about the confirmed COVID cases at the church website.
Grace has been locked in an ongoing legal battle with county officials about holding indoor services since July. For the past several months, MacArthur has claimed that no one at Grace has gotten sick with COVID-19. However, two people who attended the Shepherd’s Conference at Grace in early March were diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly afterwards and died.
Grace initially complied with California and LA County’s ban on large, indoor gatherings. However, in July, MacArthur said he believed the government had exaggerated the risk COVID posed and that failing to gather for worship was disobedience to God.
Grace began holding indoor services again on July 26 and masks and social distancing were not required. Los Angeles officials then sent a cease and desist letter, threatening the church with fines and arrest. The county noted that it permitted large, outdoor gatherings, just not indoor gatherings.
MacArthur and Grace responded by filing a lawsuit, claiming that the state-issued health restrictions “violate the California constitution.”
Since then, the battle has intensified, with the county evicting the church from a parking lot Grace has leased for 45 years.
The county also sought to get the Los Angeles Superior Court to hold MacArthur and Grace in contempt for violating the ban on indoor worship. Last month, a judge refused to decide on the contempt request because social distancing rules prohibited people from being present in the courtroom. The judge instead scheduled a hearing on the case for November 13.
MacArthur continues to defy the county orders. Two weeks ago, he spearheaded a petition aimed at deeming the church “essential.”
UPDATE: In a newsletter today, Grace Community Church said it had three part-time employees who tested positive for COVID-19. The church said the three have not been hospitalized and are recovering at home. Grace said it will meet for worship this Sunday.
UPDATE 2: According to the LA Department of Public Health, Grace Community Church now has four confirmed cases of COVID-19.