A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Thursday refused to decide whether to hold Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in contempt for violating a ban on indoor worship services, and instead scheduled a hearing for mid-November.
Attorneys for MacArthur hailed the delay as a victory.
“This ruling prevents Los Angeles County’s attempted rush to judgement in its continued prosecution of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church for courageously exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Charles LiMandri, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, in a statement. LiMandri added that the ruling by Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff “reflects that (Judge Beckloff) appreciates the importance of the constitutionally protected rights at issue in this case.”
However, Los Angeles County officials said that the church “has not been exonerated for its violations.” Instead, they said the decision to postpone a ruling was made simply because of required social distancing measures.
The court cannot “adjudicate this issue now because of court rules prohibiting people from being present in the courtroom to combat the spread of the virus,” county officials said.
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A hearing was set for Nov. 13, in which the court, the county said, “is likely” to schedule a date to rule on MacArthur’s contempt.
On September 10, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Grace Community Church, prohibiting MacArthur from holding indoor worship services. MacArthur, however, has continued to hold in-person services with congregants singing and sitting next to each other without masks.
The county said Grace Community Church is not only violating the county’s public health order, but also the court’s preliminary injunction.
“These types of large gatherings (especially indoors) jeopardize the County’s efforts to control spread of the virus and keep people safe,” the county said. “Parties cannot violate court orders with which they don’t agree.”
Meanwhile, MacArthur in a statement said, “We are holding church. The Lord Jesus requires us to meet together and we will continue to do that because we are commanded to and because it is our right.”
Alejandra Molina of Religion News Service contributed to this report.
28 thoughts on “John MacArthur will Face New Hearing in November for Defying Ban on Indoor Services”
I’ve been behind MacArthur from day one. Let people choose for themselves. Congratulations to Florida for opening up with no restrictions. That’s the way it should be all over America. That’s the only way we will get through this period of COVID.
De Santis was schooled before when he refused to enact thorough social distance measures, and I went be surprised if he gets schooled again should COVID cases increase.
JM has taken the worship call to be indoors far too literally, and continues to politicize the pulpit by doing his right-wing media “interviews” and embracing Trump within his very misguided “GOP is a biblical worldview”. For all the good he’s done with expository teaching and missions, his words and actions the last 5+ years regarding his other ministries (TMS, et al) are pretty appalling for any pastor. All is not well in Grace Land; look deeper.
Utter nonsense. Everyone for themselves is the antithesis of how we should have tackled the pandemic and it has cost 200,000 lives so far. Millions of people had no choice but to put themselves in harms way because of the selfishness of others who refused to abide by reasonable restrictions in the interest of public health, and Florida was the perfect example of Covid denial from the governor down as the infections raged over the summer, killing over 10,000 people. Without measures to control the spread, thousands more would have died.
Yeah, we should totally let people choose their own speed limits too.
Because nobody would ever endanger themselves or others for the sake of their convenience when driving.
We can trust each other.
Perhaps you could file a lawsuit based upon the federal government’s unlawful interference in your right to drive to church just as fast as you want.
Any change of opinion?
I praise God for the living example of godly leadership at Grace Community in L.A. They have refreshed the hearts of the saints all around the world through their example. They are willing to face loss, being hated, betrayal and being misunderstood. As my Gram would have said….they are in good company as they are following in the steps of Jesus Christ. Amy Carmichael said “If I forget the way of the cross leads to the cross and not to a bank of flowers….then I know nothing of Calvary’s love.”
“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Philemon 1:4-7
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”
An expression of true love and faith toward the Lord Jesus would be to care for the widows and orphans of COVID.
Instead, John MacArthur denies they exist.
Lawsuit-mongering is the furthest thing possible from the “way of the cross” Amy Carmichael spoke of, and experienced herself.
John MacArthur and GCC completely fail the “What Would Jesus Do?” test.
An incredible example of Godly leadership by the elders of Grace Community Church. Faithful to their call to preach the Word bearing witness of the Cross of Telling the world of the love of God shown in His sacrifice for our redemption is love. Way to go JMac.
Side note, love how LA county distorted the judge’s decision. That same system is the one locking down on Christ’s church. Never a good place to be.
Hard to believe that people with (supposedly) mature, rational minds think this covid virus is some kind of joke. And it’s not an incredible example of Godly leadership by the elders of GCC. It’s blatant stupidity. Nuff said. Think I’ll go put my mask on and watch my pastor preach on youtube.
This was a good word for everyone, Sams. Maybe your pastor will be preaching on self-righteousness today.
Good for Grace Communty Church. And its pastor. The time has come to emerge from our quarantine and worship together. Of course, no one is being forced to do so.
Instead of arguement, I’d like to see more on how churches are being creative in this time to worship together. It’s possible to find ways to worship together while accommodating and the more mask strict, versus the more mask moderate. I know, because our church has found ways to do this. Yay, MacArthur wants to meet, yet it seems a touch arrogant of him to maybe not accommodate the different levels people are at.
Example—-I was at an apple orchard today and it was busy, not packed, with plenty of room outdoors for social distancing. While in line getting apple cider donuts at a food truck I noticed people were 6 feet apt AND wearing masks (some) while outside. And there were family groups walking around with masks on with nobody near them, outside. To me this was odd (I don’t wear masks outdoors, I social distance) but to those people it’s probably what they felt ok with.
Some were wearing masks outside, some not. (Yes I do wear masks inside when it’s required.) But nobody was giving anyone problems. We let each other be.
Case in point—I think it’s possible for us to find ways of understanding of each other and ways to work with this thingie we’re dealing with whether it’s masks (mask strict/moderate/meh) or something else.
We’re all learning about how we judge each other. We can try to understand.
Especially the church. Yeah?
Interesting approach, trying to confuse people with a calm, rational, reasoned exhortation! ;)
Please explain what you mean. Because I’m “confused” by what you said. ;)
Methinks you misunderstood me.
There is no pandemic says John MacArthur, but you also have to sign a legal document (waiver) if you catch COVID-19 there. My brain is breaking…just in case it’s real, you can’t sue us!
It also makes me wonder who on the board thinks that MacArthur may be mistaken.
Interesting. Exactly like the waiver Trump required attendees of his Tulsa rally to sign, while simultaneously claiming that there was no health hazard.
Excellent reporting by Throckmorton, as usual.
Legal arguments aside, MacArthur and his church’s leadership are demonstrating to the world an extreme case of selfishness and failure to love their neighbors.
Not just endangering public health, but harming the church’s public witness.
Whatever happened to putting the well-being of your neighbors above your own “rights”? MacArthur does not seem to like those parts of the Bible.
Agreed. MacArthur also doesn’t seem to like his own theology, since he is determined to wage lawsuits to demand his rights instead of practicing the submissive acceptance of Providence that he preaches.
Glad to see MacArthur standing up against tyrannical authorities that overstep their God-ordained boundaries. Wish more Christian pastors had a spine.
Here is MacArthur in April, when he chose NOT to hold services:
‘The other thing that we talked about with the elders was if we defy this and if we say we’re going to meet anyway, we run the risk of exposing people to this illness needlessly. And why would we want to do that? Because this is a health issue, this is a health crisis. And since like any church, many of the people in our church are older. We wouldn’t want to expose them to that. We’ve only had, as far as I know, and this was up to yesterday, we’ve only had one couple in our church in the Spanish ministry who actually got the coronavirus. But that couple, and not an older couple either, wound up in the hospital because it was such a virulent experience for them.’
No mention at all of evil government interference. That’s some awfully flexible “spine”, there.
Wonder what changed for JMac? His political interest? Or perhaps his financial one?
Lea, every time you pull the trigger, you hit the bullseye! This is exactly my position on why this deadly covid-19 virus must be, but has not been taken seriously by the Church. JohnMac is not acting in the best interest GCC or the Evangelical community at large, this from a preacher who wields an enormous amount of influence. Pastor Dave and those of like mind need to have their heads examined if they continue to think that JohnMac and those who suppport him are in the right. Indeed, what has changed his position? Surely, financial is the most logical$$$$$$$
Serious question here (no snark): How can we hold government accountable for unequal application of the law?
That’s not the mission Jesus left us, friend.
Lea, I politely disagree. It’s a good question to ask.
Unequal application of the law has happened for years. Humans are fallen, sinful and the private interests, agendas and worldviews of government leaders and officials can color how they govern and interpret laws.
One example for me is the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s/60s.
“In the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, **that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happines**— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
And because Black People saw the law being unequally applied to them, for they too had the rights stated to them in the Declaration of Independence, they sought to change the laws so they were fairly applied.
For example, Black people sought to move into certain neighborhoods and subdivisions in the 1950s/60s but were denied because they were black. White people were allowed.
There were religious and Christian civil rights leaders such as Rev. Martin Luther King who saw bringing an equal application of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as something included in their mission from God (and the Word, Jesus) and sought to see it through. Civil Rights leaders held meetings in churches. Thanks to the efforts of Rev. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, we now have laws such as fair housing laws which say a person cannot be denied housing due to their race.
Another right in the Bill of Rights, amendment 1 says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;“
I’m not saying MacArthur is included in this, yet there are those in the Church who have wondered if governments are applying laws in a way prohibiting the free exercise of religion re Covid-19.
How Christians are to challenge unequal application of the law (if they’re called to) is a matter for prayer and discernment depending on each situation where it comes up.
What is our mission from Jesus, Lea? What does it include?
I think the tough part is clarity on where freedom of religion “begins” and “ends”. I’m sure it “ends” at harming others. Case in point, I’m pretty sure that human sacrifice – while a religious practice – is not covered under Freedom of Religion. And it’s pretty clear why – the harm to others.
In this case, if gathering in large numbers would put others in physical harm’s way (granted not to the same extreme), I can see it not being covered under Freedom of Religion. I’m not a lawyer – just the child of one – but I’d be interested in a legal interpretation of it.
As for the other points brought up: IMO, the biggest strength of our nation is also our biggest Achilles heel – our individuality. We are “all about me and mine and my rights and me and my and mine” to such an extreme that we often lose sight of (or downplay) the impact of our behavior on others. While you are free to do whatever you wish, the rest of us are not free from the consequences. If you look into why various international cities got covid19 under control quicker – part (not all) of it is having a more collective mindset. Same goes for overall quality of life – when I was living in Copenhagen, I noticed there was less of an interest in being “super rich and famous” and “how free I am to do what I want”, especially if it came at a cost to others. My flatmate once quipped, “we’d much rather pay our fair share to have free university than have a third personal airplane or something absurd like that”. (Reminds me of a favorite quote from Forrest Gump: There’s only so much money a man really needs, the rest is just for showing off.)
I think the “it’s all about me, what about me” mindset will be our downfall spiritually, socioeconomically, and physically.
Good point, MH. I see that.
I’m all for godly civil disobedience, but if you have to sign a waiver to attend his services, that’s really hypocritical. :(
May God show John MacArthur the same lesson in humility as he has chosen to show Donald Trump.
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