John MacArthur
Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, urges Christians to sign a petition deeming churches "essential" in a recent video.

MacArthur Heads Petition to Deem Church “Essential”

By Christina Darnell

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, is urging Christians to sign a petition aimed at deeming the church “essential.” In a video released this week alongside the petition, MacArthur also urged pastors to “open your church.”

MacArthur, who is in the throes of a legal battle with LA County after holding indoor worship services in defiance of the county’s pandemic-related restrictions, released the 4-minute video, produced in collaboration with Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, on his social media platforms. The video follows MacArthur as he walks through the campus of GCC, where he has pastored for more than 50 years.

Throughout those years, MacArthur said the church has gathered every Sunday. “We’ve been protected by our government; we’ve been given the freedom to do that,” he said.

GCC initially complied with California and LA County’s ban on large, indoor gatherings. It pivoted to online services with MacArthur preaching to an empty auditorium and his sermons streaming into the homes of his congregation, like many churches across the country.

But by mid-summer, the famed pastor said he believed the government had exaggerated the risk COVID posed and that not gathering to worship was disobedience to God.  

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GCC began holding indoor services again on July 26 and masks and social distancing were not required. Los Angeles officials sent a cease and desist letter, threatening fines and arrest. The county noted that it permitted large gatherings outside, just not indoors.

MacArthur and GCC responded by filing suit, securing Thomas More Society as legal counsel, and claiming 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 it’s leased for 45 years and a Los Angeles Superior Judge granting a preliminary injunction against MacArthur, prohibiting his church from holding indoor worship services. MacArthur continues to defy the orders. The court has issued a hearing in mid-November at the county’s request for civil contempt against MacArthur.

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

MacArthur remains undeterred. In his video released this week, he blames politicians for “trampling on the constitution” and manipulating citizens through “manufactured fear.”

“The reality is that the COVID data just doesn’t match the government’s COVID narrative,” he said. “Here in the state of Calif, we have 40 million people. People that have COVID are now 1/100th of 1 percent. You have a 99.99 percent chance to survive COVID. It’s just not what they’re saying it is.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, which is tracking confirmed cases and deaths in California related to COVID-19, confirmed cases of COVID-19 were 846,230, making that just over two-percent of the population who have been diagnosed with the virus as of Wednesday. Deaths in the state reached 16,485 as of Wednesday.

“That absolutely does not warrant shutting down anything, but especially, absurdly, arbitrarily churches who have a special protection from the constitution. Oh, and at the same time leaving open abortion clinics, strip clubs, and marijuana dispensaries,” MacArthur said. He also cited the government as saying they would allow protests where social distancing and adherence to restrictions on large gatherings were impossible.

“It is obviously targeted discrimination,” MacArthur said. “Leftist and secular government officials have no tolerance for biblical Christianity, so they’re using COVID as an excuse to shut us down.

“We have to stand firm on the reality that the church is essential,” he continued. “The most meaningful, transformative, exemplary lives in a community all come together in the church, and that’s been our impact on the city of L.A.”

Since GCC began holding indoor services in late July, MacArthur said Sunday services have grown to about 7,000 worshipers in attendance. They have also resumed student and adult ministries, according to the church’s website. Photos from Sunday services show attendees gathered close together, many not wearing masks.

“The church is the original protestor,” he said. “We go back to the protestant reformation 500 years ago when the government tried to dictate to the church how it should worship.”

He called the government shutdown of churches a “watershed moment” in America, saying the church is both free to meet under the constitution and commanded to meet by Christ.

“This is a time of all times to meet as the church,” he said. “Open your church. The church is essential.”

Reactions to the video, which had more than 264,000 views Wednesday night, were mixed, with some considering the move reckless in the face of a deadly pandemic and others praising MacArthur for his stand for religious liberty.

The corresponding petition urges officials to deem church “essential,” which would allow them to stay open and offer fewer government restrictions during the pandemic. The website only lists 49 signatories to the petition. Requests to the Falkirk Center for comment were not immediately returned.

Christina Darnell is a freelance writer who has contributed to MinistryWatch, WORLD, The Charlotte Observer, and other publications.

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22 thoughts on “MacArthur Heads Petition to Deem Church “Essential””

  1. Each of those non masked close sitting Christians made their choice.. God bless them and God bless the Christians that sit at home alone masked up watching youtube..

    Do as you are led but don’t hinder those that do differently.

    Pretty simple.

  2. Amen. I totally agree.
    God bless all them.
    And God bless the Christians sitting masked up in churches indoor and out as we find the ways to assemble for Church in 2020.
    Listen to the Holy Spirit.
    Realize some of us are going to disagree. Either side, don’t attack each other with criticism, facts, or Scripture. Seek to listen.

    Pray that churches will have the courage to open their churches and that the The Holy Spirit will give the wisdom and creativity in finding ways to assemble. He Will make a way.

    Amen. Peace.

  3. Here is what MacArthur said in April (on video):

    “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.”

    What changed?

  4. Common sense. This is not a crisis as portrayed. Yes, it is a serious illness, but “we, the People” have the right to make our own decisions. Watch Pastor MacArthur’s video above for a fuller explanation.

    1. Yes, down with all those traffic regulations! “we, the people” have the right to make our own decisions about how fast we drive to church, and whether we have time to stop at the corner. Common sense.

    2. An employee of mine lost a relative to the virus. As much as I lover her, and value her work, I did not want her in my business until I knew how much time she had spent with him in the previous weeks. It turned out to be no time, but it still had to be known so that nothing was possibly shared, in an asymptomatic way, with others.

      Unless you never leave your home, your decisions in this time of pandemic do affect other people. We take our germs with us, even if we don’t know we are ill. And, if we choose not to wear a mask, we may unknowingly be infecting a great many people before we even know that we, ourselves, are ill. That is why the pandemic is not up to personal interpretation of best societal practices. It’s why I recently did not do the normal thing and rush to an ill family member’s side. She was being cared for, and she did not need extra family in the home. Now, three months after the crisis has passed, it is okay to see her -with a mask and social distancing, of course.

      1. Because the virus is so small, there’s no solid scientific evidence to support wearing masks to protect against Covid-19. It’s about politics. As an online health article points out:

        “There’s no evidence to support the idea that masks prevent the spread of the virus. In fact, the science tells us masks cannot block viruses.

        “SARS-CoV-2 has a diameter between 0.06 and 0.14 microns. Medical N95 masks — which are considered the most effective — can filter particles as small as 0.3 microns. Surgical masks, homemade masks, T-shirts and bandanas are even more porous.

        “At best, a mask may reduce the transmission of large respiratory droplets, but it does nothing to prevent the transmission of aerosolized particulates exhaled by asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals with COVID-19. Health agencies’ own research show it’s a futile measure that only provides a false sense of security.”

        1. The misguided analysis you are repeating from an “online health article” is wrong.

          The virus is indeed very small, but it doesn’t travel alone. It travels in a respiratory droplet, whose size IS large enough to be trapped by masks and other physical barriers.

          A better source would be NATURE, the world’s most prestigious scientific journal:

          “Face masks: what the data say
          The science supports that face coverings are saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic, and yet the debate trundles on. How much evidence is enough?”

          https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02801-8

          You may disagree with the evidence about masks, but to simply say there is NO evidence is an outright falsehood.

          1. Not an outright falsehood…yet we must also note the effectiveness of a mask is lowered if it isn’t used correctly—ie fabric masks that go unwashed, people who reuse disposable surgical masks, people who touch the masks, or wear them under their nose, etc, etc.

            Point is, a mask is helpful but not the end-all be-all. They’re useful along with washing hands, distancing, staying home if sick, and I’d add, doing things that promote a healthy immune system, like enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercise, doing things to reduce stress, and if needed, taking natural supplements that can boost the immune system.

            All of that put together can be a useful strategy.

    3. I agree with Lea. Adding to her point about traffic regulations, the decision to forego a mask in public settings is not a victimless crime. It a personal decision that has community impact.

      For the sake of levity on a Friday, consider hand washing. Imagine a stubborn group who identify as “No-Washers”, refusing to wash their hands after using the bathroom. They don’t want “Big Government” dictating when and how they wash their hands. “Jesus didn’t use soap in his day and he certainly didn’t have hand sanitizer” is there favorite talking point. They claim there is no reason a believer should put themselves under the authority of “so-called” health experts who say that hand washing after using the bathroom stops the spread of germs. This group rejects such assertions as “fake news” and an intrusion on their constitutional rights!

      Now imagine you are visiting a new church. At the beginning of the service you are invited to shake the hands of at least five people sitting near you. In this scenario, I imagine most people would want to know who is a “No-Washer” before participating in that part of the service. The point is our choice to wash our hands is about common courtesy for the people we interact with, and so is wearing a mask (in my opinion).

      I’m using the point of absurdity here to have a bit of fun to offer my opinion here. If attending a church service without masks was just about people taking individual risks (with individual consequences), then I’d have no opinion the topic. I do have an opinion, because it’s about more than individual choices. The people who attend services (and other large gatherings for that matter) without masks also shop at the same grocery store as me. They share access to the same healthcare system as me among other community services. By choosing not to wear masks, they are making decisions that affect me as a fellow citizen.

      Looking at the big picture, I can totally appreciate that regular social gatherings is a very important part of life for many reasons. Adapting to this new normal isn’t easy. Choosing to ignore circumstance doesn’t change the consequence of our decisions. I really wish we were all on the other side of this pandemic.

      1. Let me guess. Those that don’t wear masks are the next batch of abusers. The entire world around them are victims…

        Not buying it…

        1. Yes Sin Killer, I don’t totally buy it either. I did some thinking on this.

          To follow recommendations to wash hands, distance, wear masks, etc is not a problem. It is when we start assigning moral judgements toward those who chose to do/not do something.

          Put more bluntly:
          The insinuation “you’re a bad person” if you’re not wearing a mask.

          Well, are they?

          This statement:
          “ the decision to forego a mask in public settings is not a victimless crime. It a personal decision that has community impact.”

          It is true personal decisions have community impact. Yet the statement “not a victimless crime” has a moral implication to it.

          You may encounter people at a grocery store unmasked. How are you treating the unmasked person? That has an impact on someone, too.

          As an aside…the virus could be on the cart or the food containers.

          Even the food in your cart is part of the “personal decisions that have a community impact” also relates to the food in your cart.

          What are you buying? Where did it come from? Who did it affect to get it to the store? How might it affect your health?

          Local or far away?Processed or natural?

          For ex, how was that meat raised?

          Did you buy the meat directly from a farmer at the market because you think it best or is it CAFO factory farm meat? Maybe you buy from the farmer because you care how farm animals are raised land want to know who produces it?

          Or maybe you think meat is unhealthy or inhumane and choose to eat vegan.

          All these decisions about meat cause greater ripples in a community. It supports a farmer or a big company or it doesn’t.

          Yet, I’m not going to say you are “bad” because of where you chose to buy the meat or buy none at all.

          The unmasked person has their reasons. Unwise or wise. Maybe they considered the facts and came to a different idea.

          You might not agree.

          Let us continue to be charitable to one another.

      2. @Tony – pretty much everything we do affects someone else unless we stay hidden in our basements. And then if we have family and friends that affects them also. Getting in your car and driving down the road can potentially affect someone else — accidentally running a stop sign, a child who runs out into the road, a driver who is texting, a distracted driver … and the list goes on. So we look at the risks and make an educated decision. I choose not to live in fear. I will be careful in my interactions with other people so as not to put them at unnecessary risk (living is a risk). I am in the so called age group at greater danger — but again, most of those who have died had pre-existing conditions that were exacerbated by the virus. I have friends (late 70s) who both contracted the virus and were sick for a couple of weeks and are back in their regular activities. The percentage of death is small.

    4. In fairness it’s a real virus, yet is it out of line to suggest that media manipulate facts for their own ends?

      This article is from a more conservative Christian source and an example of why some folks are skeptical of the reports of the virus. It’s not that they’re conspiracy theorists, something just smells “off”.

      https://www.worldviewweekend.com/news/article/3-biggest-lies-about-covid-19-have-all-been-exposed-heres-why-globalist-power-brokers

      It might be interesting to compare its claims to other sources.

      1. This fails the smell test. The so-called “three biggest lies” are not anything I’ve heard from mainstream sources. The death rate was assumed to be very low from the beginning, since most of those tested would be symptomatic. The whole point of flattening the curve was so treatments could be developed in time and hospitals would have staffing and equipment to do it. And asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread DO happen. I’ve been following both conservative media and mainstream media since this happened. By far the worst misrepresentations have been from conservative media.

  5. Look at the results of Covid on the Body of Christ.

    Isolation
    Depression
    Disunity
    Judgement
    Etc

    Compare that to Scripture

    The church is not responding as we are called and commanded.

  6. You would think that after all this time of fighting against public health regulations, MacArthur might at least stop spewing bogus statistics. For example, his claim that you have a 99.99% chance of surviving COVID is ludicrous.
    If every single person in the U.S. already had COVID, his statistic would mean about 30,000 deaths, when the actual number of U.S. COVID deaths already is almost ten times that much.
    The actual survival rate seems to be in the ballpark of 99%, so he is wrong by a factor of 100 or so.
    And of course the 99% does not account for the survivors who are still suffering, like my friend in her late 50s who still can’t do more than a few minutes of physical exertion several months later, or my friend in his 60s who survived 3 weeks on a ventilator but now has sleep and breathing problems.

    People have been pointing out his bogus numbers for weeks if not months, so at this point the only logical conclusion is that MacArthur values his culture-war power games more than he values truth. The persistent lying is yet another reason he should be rebuked by Christians who do care about truth.

    1. I care about the truth, and your calculations and assumptions are wrong. The link is to news article which took data from CDC https://www.winknews.com/2020/09/23/cdc-shows-covid-19-has-high-survival-rate-doctor-still-wants-to-see-precautions-taken/ and it is summarized here :

      “Gov. Ron DeSantis also tweeted about the update, saying people in the age groups of 0 to 19 have a 99.997% chance of survival if they contract COVID-19, the age group of 20 to 49 a 99.98% chance, 50 to 69 years old 99.5% and 70 years old and above a 94.6% chance.”

      I admire John MacArthur for taking a stand.

  7. This is just about a narcissist wanting to be the center of attention and devotion. This is just a jerk who does not care about anything but his own damned ego. 2,000 years and nothing had changed. The spirit of the Pharisees is still alive and well where the numbers and dollars are big. Jmac neither actually looks or acts like Christ, nor unfortunately do his followers..

  8. Disobeying God is a sin, right?

    And this pastor says not meeting together is disobeying God.

    Wow!

    Did God also say we HAVE to go to a megachurch, too? How wretched!

    Check out his accumulated treasure on earth, if you want to know what sin is.

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