LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County is pushing back even further against a Sun Valley church that defied court and health orders not to hold indoor services during the pandemic.

County officials are asking a judge to impose penalties against Grace Community Church after it has continued to host indoor services.

A statement from the county said health officials have been in contact with the church and other houses of worship to educate leaders about the increased risk of spreading coronavirus during sustained periods of indoor contact with others.

“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,” a county statement released Saturday said.

“We will continue to work closely with all religious institutions, including Grace Community Church, to make sure their congregants are protected and provided with accurate information about worshiping safely during this phase of the pandemic.”

It is unclear what type of penalties L.A. County is seeking to have imposed against the church, and whether it will be financial in nature.

Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur has repeatedly held indoor Sunday church services despite court orders not to do so.

Last Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant had denied almost all of the county’s reasons for requesting a temporary restraining order against the church, saying it is L.A. County’s responsibility to show “why they should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion.”

MacArthur issued complaints against Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Mayor Eric Garcetti and county health officials, alleging they have unconstitutionally displayed favoritism in enforcing coronavirus regulations, leaving churches at a disadvantage.

“The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has decided to continue their unconstitutional attack against Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church,” church attorney Jenna Ellis said. “They are now asking the court to hold the church in contempt for simply being open for worship last Sunday. Pastor MacArthur is standing firm that church is essential and has no plans to yield to this tyrannical board, which is clearly defying the constitution’s mandate to protect religious liberty.”

Under current California and L.A. County health orders, houses of worship are only allowed to hold services outdoors and require all attendees to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing.

A hearing on this case was set for Thursday in downtown’s L.A. County Superior Court.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

Comments (7)
  1. bryan says:

    Doing things outside is very difficult. Indoors is much easier, with the extreme heat and smoke-smelling air. I would just compromise by letting them meet inside with masks and distancing. The church was OK with this arrangement. But the county wanted to put its knee on their neck. This has now become political. Persecuting Christians never goes well for governments, but does grow the church. So I guess in a way, everyone wins. Praise the Lord!

  2. Selena says:

    True, Bryan! Even non-believers should be very concerned that the county and courts are willing to shred the Constitution. Someday, it may be needed to protect them.

  3. Jerry says:

    Selena, Brian.

    The ruling from the court was the church COULD hold services if they wore masks and social distanced. The church then decided to hold services without masks and without social distancing in clear and purposeful defiance of the agreements. The County is pressing for the Church to be penalized because they did not follow the agreement and rules under which they were allowed to meet.

    They are not trying to stop people from praying, worshiping or believing their beliefs.

  4. John Cargill says:

    I find it humorous that the County seeks to ‘Educate’ believers, when they are the ones who, in actuality, require eductation about a number of things: 1) The risk to life and limb is not nearly as great as they claim – death rate 3% both domestically and worldwide; 2) Speaking of death, dying without having repented of sin and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is worse than death itself, as citizenship is ultimately in Heaven or Hell (no middle ground), so we do much worse by deluding ourselves in the belief that the temporal outweighs the eternal. 3) The government of the County and the State have no intention of ending their supposed ban on indoor worship. At what point will the ‘Numbers’ justify that in their eyes? They have not even clarified that. 4) The church at this point does a DISSERVICE to EVERY PERSON by failing to disregard this myopic and fearmongering position adopted by government, which is actually being used as a satanic tactic in a vain attempt to limit the reach of the Gospel. Ultimately God will triumph, and so we need to ask ourselves which side we are on. Do we obey the State or God? He has said NOT to forsake the assembling together.

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