California Church Holds Indoor Worship in Defiance of Los Angeles Public Health Order

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Grace Community Church went ahead and held indoor worship services Sunday despite an appeals court’s stay of a judge’s order that ruled the church’s First Amendment rights are violated by bans on indoor services.

“They don’t want us to meet, that’s obvious,” Pastor John MacArthur told the thousands of worshipers who attended his Sun Valley, California, megachurch, reported the Washington Times.

“They’re not willing to work with us,” he continued. “They just want to shut us down. But we’re here to bring honor to the Lord.”

According to the Times report, the California Court of Appeals ruled health dangers associated with the coronavirus outweigh the church’s right to hold services indoors.

“As between the harm that flows from the heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19 (namely ‘serious illness and death’) and the harm that flows from having to conduct religious services outdoors instead of indoors, the balance at this early stage favors issuance of a stay,” the court stated.

The lawsuit filed by Grace Community Church argued that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) discriminated particularly against churches in his executive order banning indoor services because he did not enforce his public health mandates on other events such as protests and demonstrations.

Jenna Ellis, attorney with the Thomas More Society, which represents Grace Community Church, said the church “is doing exactly what they have for 63 years—holding church.”

“They have tried to be reasonable and work with LA County, but the County would not accept anything short of shutting down the Church entirely,” she added.

On Friday, Judge James Chalfant of the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, upheld the right of MacArthur and the church to remain open and hold indoor worship.

Attorney Paul Jonna of the firm LiMandri & Jonna LLP, which litigates civil rights issues, tweeted some quotes from Chalfant’s ruling against Los Angeles County, which apparently argued that churches are being treated no differently than other “businesses.”

“The Governor can’t just issue policies without a rational basis to do so,” the judge said. “To my knowledge he never has developed a rational basis to distinguish between businesses. This is all sort of shooting from the hip, which is understandable at the beginning of an emergency and less understandable as time goes on.”

Chalfant continued that “although the moving paper purports to treat churches the same as other businesses, that is constitutionally wrong.”

“They’re entitled to heightened protection, not to be treated like a hair salon,” he said, adding that he agreed that Newsom and Los Angeles County “have not treated churches differently than any other business, and they have to. They absolutely have to.”

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