The Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled Thursday that no court order exists prohibiting Grace Community Church and its senior Pastor John MacArthur from gathering in-person, despite conflicting rulings from lower courts.
Jenna Ellis, who is special counsel for the Thomas More Society and one of the attorneys representing Grace Community Church, said in a statement to The Daily Wire that “we are pleased with the outcome” of the court’s decision, adding:
Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff correctly found there is no court order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services. LA County continues to harass and target Pastor MacArthur. Having failed to get a court order to shut down the church they have sought three times, they’re going to try again by hauling us back into court. Ironically, LA County said in its application for contempt that, ‘Grace Church cannot thumb its nose at the court when decisions don’t go its way,’ yet that’s precisely what LA County is now doing themselves. We will simply continue to defend our client’s constitutionally protected rights because church is essential.
The court decision comes after several weeks of legal wrangling between the church and Los Angeles County. As The Daily Wire reported, MacArthur made headlines late last month when he released a statement with the church elders explaining why they would not comply with Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 13 order mandating that churches no longer gather indoors because of the coronavirus.
Later, the church received a cease and desist letter from a law firm representing the county, which threatened fines and imprisonment if they did not stop services indoors. The church sued the state of California in response, as reported by The Daily Wire:
MacArthur and the church later sued the state of California after they received a cease and desist letter demanding they stop gathering inside their building or face fines and imprisonment. A county judge allowed them to meet indoors as long as they wore masks and practices social distancing, but an appellate court put a stay on that order late Saturday night.
Los Angeles County then requested that a $1,000 fine be levied for each act of contempt they alleged against the church, as well as an extra $1,500 for every violation of a court order. The total would have added up to $20,000.
“Grace Church cannot thumb its nose at the court when decisions don’t go its way,” the county’s request read in part. “Accordingly, the Court should issue the requested order to show cause re contempt.”
Ellis told The Daily Wire at the time: “The LA County Board of Supervisors has decided to continue their unconstitutional attack against Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church. 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,” she added.
MacArthur recently told The Daily Wire’s Andrew Klavan that he’s not surprised that he’s engaged in conflict, saying, “And let me just pivot a little bit to say this: The Church in America has been so caught up in pragmatism; it has drunk the Kool-Aid of trying to devise a religion that non-religious people will like and accept, that it’s afraid to be courageous because it might offend somebody.”
A full hearing on the case will be heard on Sept. 4.
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