LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A judge Thursday issued a temporary restraining order directing a Sun Valley Church to refrain from holding indoor services in light of the “immediate threat to public health and safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff also directed Grace Community Church to mandate face coverings for congregants and enforce social distancing if the church decides to hold outdoor services. Church leaders must also allow county health officers onto the property to post notice of the order and to verify compliance.
“The court finds the county health order has a real and substantial relationship to public health and safety,” Beckloff wrote in the decision, stating that the “potential consequences of community spread of COVID-19 and concomitant risk of death to members of the community, associated and unassociated with the church, outweighs the harm that flows from the restriction on indoor worship caused by the county health order.”
Beckloff initially heard arguments on the county’s motion for a preliminary injunction Friday. Both he and Judge James Chalfant collectively denied the county’s four previous bids for a temporary restraining order, though Beckloff said the county had “demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits” of its claims in the latest request.
“The county persuasively argues congregants of the church are not isolated amongst themselves, but circulate within the county outside of their times together in religious worship,” Beckloff wrote. “All citizens of the community therefore — even those who do not worship at the church — would be at risk of infection through community spread.”
Beckloff also wrote that the health order was not, in fact, a ban on worship, but rather says it “must take place other than indoors.”
County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis Thursday said the L.A. County Department of Public Health was available to all businesses and institutions in need of help understanding how to best comply with local health orders.
“The sole purpose of the health officer orders is to protect the health and safety of our L.A. communities, and we thank everyone who has taken compliance with the orders seriously in order to protect their business, their employees and the public,” he said.
The county originally sued Grace Community Church Aug. 14 seeking enforcement of local and state health orders after it began holding indoor services on Sundays. The church has its own suit against the county awaiting trial in Burbank Superior Court.
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