Court Upholds Church’s Right to Hold Indoor Worship over California Officials’ Ban

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A California court upheld on Friday the right of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church to remain open and to hold indoor worship services amid bans on the services enacted by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and other state and city officials.

According to a press release by Thomas More Society, just hours after the litigation firm filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California County of Los Angeles on behalf of MacArthur and the church, Judge James Chalfant denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the church’s indoor services.

The Thomas More Society noted:

James Chalfant denied almost all of the county’s requests at the August 14 Los Angeles Superior Court hearing, agreeing with MacArthur and the church that it is the county’s burden to show why they should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion.

Chalfant expressed safety concerns. Attorneys for Grace Community Church explained that Los Angeles County was being unreasonable in its demands, and offered to have the congregation comply with face mask wearing and social distancing indoors until the matter could be fully heard. This was stipulated as a more reasonable action than that of the county’s rush to shut down church services. The judge agreed and set the full hearing for September 4, 2020, ordering the church to have congregants wear masks and social distance between family groups indoors.

The lawsuit was filed against Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other California and Los Angeles County public health officials who argued indoor church services must be banned due to the coronavirus.

Christian evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham posted to Facebook the ruling is “an important win for freedom of worship and for our Constitutional right to assemble and worship.”

Graham expressed appreciation for MacArthur’s firm stand “against the progressive leftist bullies in his state” as well as for Thomas More Society Attorney Jenna Ellis who is helping the church in this legal battle.”

Ellis also serves as an attorney to President Donald Trump.

“The First Amendment ensures the rights and freedoms of people of faith are protected,” the Christian leader added. “I hope this sends a message to those who would like nothing better than to keep churches shut down or limited. This is another example of why who we vote into positions of leadership in the upcoming elections is so important and impacts all aspects of our lives.”

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