Judge sides with, ‘vindicates’ California church that refused to close
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LOS ANGELES, August 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pastor John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in California may hold indoor services without legal retaliation for now, Los Angeles Superior Court judge James Chalfant ruled Friday.
California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has banned indoor religious services (along with various types of secular gatherings) in 29 counties representing 80 percent of the state’s population in the name of containing the spread of COVID-19. Numerous churches have defied the order, including Grace Community Church, Cornerstone Church of Fresno, Destiny Christian Church of Rocklin, and Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena.
In Los Angeles, conflict over the order has intensified to the point that Democrat mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered that power and water be shut off to buildings where “selfish and irresponsible” gatherings continue to take place.
“God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church,” MacArthur and the rest of the Grace elders declared last month in an open letter. And “when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom.”
Grace Community Church sued the state over the ban, and Los Angeles County counter-sued, but Chalfant sided with Grace, the Associated Press reports. The judge’s ruling allows the church to gather in person for the time being, provided congregants wear masks and socially distance within the building. He set a September date for a hearing on Los Angeles County’s counter-demand for an injunction against the church meeting in person.
“I am very grateful the court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us,” MacArthur said in a statement. “This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. We will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
“This result is indeed a great victory for all citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of religion,” added attorney Charles LiMandri of the Thomas More Society, which represented Grace. “This result makes it possible for the thousands of congregants of Grace to continue to gather together in their church to worship, while at the same time honoring the court’s requirement that reasonable and temporary safety measures be observed. This court ruling should stay in effect at least until there can be a full court hearing in this case on September 4, 2020.”
Across the world, many secular authorities have heavily restricted the right to religious assembly over COVID-19, from in-person gathering to singing to the distribution of Holy Communion, even in some cases banning people from gathering in parking lots to worship from within their individual cars.