John MacArthur said during a somewhat tense interview Tuesday with CNN host Brianna Keilar that the California government is “targeting” the church.
The pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has garnered a lot of press attention in recent weeks for openly defying the orders of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has mandated churches remain shuttered amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday, he dubbed the morning worship service “a peaceful protest,” a reference to the fact that Black Lives Matter protests and riots in the wake of the death of George Floyd in late May have flourished, largely unencumbered by lawmakers around the country. At the same time, churches have been ordered to remain closed and gatherings of any other kind — to include mourning the deaths of loved ones — have been restricted.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have threatened MacArthur with $1,000 daily fines if the church keeps its doors open. Should the county make good on the threat, the Los Angeles church has retained legal counsel from attorney Jenna Ellis, who also serves as a senior legal adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
During his conversation with Keilar, MacArthur reiterated that he never “mandated” congregants to return to his church for in-person services. Rather, they began coming on their own because, he said, “they realized the death rate in California is .02%.”
“They didn’t buy the deadly narrative, and they just started showing up, and we began to receive them,” the pastor explained.
MacArthur told the CNN anchor he will not close the doors to Grace Community Church “because that’s what we are, we’re a church.” He went on to say he is trusting attenders to “make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health and how that balance works for each one of them.”
“No one’s forcing anything,” he told Keilar. “They’re here because they want to be here.”
Toward the end of his appearance on CNN, MacArthur cast doubt on the information being made available by both the media and government officials.
The preacher told Keilar he is “not convinced” the public data “is actually reality.”
MacArthur said in the middle of the interview he has concerns about the statistics coming from the state’s health department. He pointed to the ousted health director, who oversaw a major computer glitch that reportedly resulted in a serious undercount in state-wide coronavirus data.
“I don’t know of anybody in our church — and that’s a large church — who is sick at this time,” he said. “I don’t know of anybody, we haven’t had anybody at our church in the hospital with this through all these months.”
MacArthur argued his congregants “know life is being restricted in a way that is not constitutional, that is burdensome, that is targeting a church, and that makes no sense in light of the actual number of deaths that they’re seeing.”
Keilar, for her part, ended the interview urging the pastor to remember the virus is easily spread by asymptomatic carriers.