John MacArthur, the Los Angeles pastor who reopened his church in defiance of lockdown orders from California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), is defending his much-talked-about decision.
On Sunday, the Grace Community Church leader told his congregation, “The world does not understand the importance of the church,” explaining why he is bucking Newsom’s renewed closures, which came in mid-July across dozens of counties in California.
The restrictions on religious gatherings also includes a ban on singing, because doing so would “negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.”
MacArthur appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Tuesday to further defend the reopening of Grace Community Church.
He told host Tucker Carlson the Democratic governor’s measures are in violation of the First Amendment, which states Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
“The government can’t intrude in worship,” MacArthur said. “We stand on that amendment.”
The pastor went on to argue his decision is “sensible” because there are approximately 40 million people living in California and just north of 8,700 residents have died with COVID-19 since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“So in California, you have a 99.99% chance to survive COVID,” MacArthur said. “So why would you shut down the entire state, and particularly when people are frightened, and sometimes, terrified that they’re going to die, shut down the church, where most of the intense relationships in our society exist?”
“We’ve had 21 weeks with no ministry to a thousand little children, to a thousand university students, to junior high students, high school students, senior adults,” he continued. “We’ve had no funerals, no weddings. I can’t go to the hospital. I’ve had to go on the phone to talk to dying people at the hospital.”
Eventually, MacArthur told the Fox News host, he started preaching once again to an empty auditorium. Without making any major announcements, congregants just began returning to the church for services.
Many of his attendees “didn’t buy the narrative,” he said. This past Sunday, there were 3,000 people gathered at Grace Community Church, where “they didn’t wear masks” because they “understand the reality of it.”
“By the way,” he added, “we’re the original protesters. We go back 500 years to the Protestant reformation. We’re still protesting lies and deception for the sake of the truth.”
On July 24, the elders of Grace Community Church released a statement backing up the decision to reopen. In it, they stated, “God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church.”
“The biblical order is clear,” they continued. “Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church.”