LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Sun Valley church held indoor services on Sunday despite the most recent court ruling in an ongoing battle over COVID-19 restrictions.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled that Grace Community Church of the Valley could hold indoor worship with restrictions and set a hearing date for the preliminary injunction in September.
But by Saturday, the California Court of Appeal set aside a portion of the lower court’s order that would have allowed indoor services to occur Sunday, issuing a temporary stay on the portion of the ruling and allowing L.A. County the right to enforce the health order’s ban on indoor religious activity.
The court noted, however, that a final resolution of the county’s petition was pending and ordered the church to submit a response by Aug. 25.
“Los Angeles County is pleased that the California Court of Appeal recognizes the vital importance of our Health Officer Orders in protecting the lives and health of our residents as we work to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus,” the county said in an issued statement.
The church had reopened indoor services toward the end of July, which is when Los Angeles County sought a court order barring it from holding services, arguing that there was an immediate health risk.
In response, the church had filed suit Wednesday, alleging that pandemic regulations were being applied unequally by public officials, i.e. by allowing department stores and factories to stay open inside, but not houses of worship.
“We will obey God rather than men. We are going to be faithful to the Lord and leave the results to Him. Whatever happens is going to be what He allows to happen. But He will be on our side because we will be obedient and faithful to His word,” said Pastor John MacArthur in a previously recorded video.
As a result, the lower court ruled in favor of the church, but that ruling was set aside, allowing public health officials to enforce a portion of the health order that prohibits indoor religious services.
Despite this, the church held services indoor Sunday, with outdoor seating as an option for congregants.
“We’re not meeting because we want to be rebellious,” said MacArthur. “We’re meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and worship him.”
Many congregants were glad the church was still able to serve the community specifically by allowing them to gather as usual.
“It’s very difficult for somebody to understand what it means to meet and gather as a body of believers in Christ,” said Jeff Larson.
The next hearing in connection with the matter is scheduled for Sept. 4.
L.A. County said the church holding services on Sunday could result in citations, but right now they are focused on education.
“It’s hard to figure out exactly what the city is trying to do with us and to us but we know they don’t want us to do exactly what we’re doing right now,” MacArthur said.