The battle between Los Angeles County officials and California megachurch Pastor John MacArthur is continuing.
According to a press release obtained by Faithwire, county officials are attempting — for the fourth time — to get a court order to shutter MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, which has been holding in-person worship services since last month, a violation of orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has mandated churches keep their doors closed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
MacArthur, in his declaration released Monday, argued the county is attempting to impede on his and his congregation’s “free exercise of religion by criminalizing activity directly required by our faith.”
“As a church,” he wrote, “we have a moral and religious obligation to continue allowing our congregants to gather in our sanctuary to worship the Lord.”
He continued, in part:
This church is the core of life for thousands from nursery to seniors. Our church is not an event center. It is a family of lives who love and care for each other in very intensely personal ways. So essential to personal well-being that people rushed back as soon as they could. The utter unnecessary deprivation of all our people by completely shutting down the mutual love and care that sustains our people in all the exigencies, pressures and challenges of life, was cruel. And after 63 years of sacrificial, kindness to our city, to be repeatedly threatened with court-ordered efforts to shut Grace Community Church down when no one is sick, reveals an inexplicable preference for a mostly harmless virus over the life-enriching and necessary fellowship of the church. Our leaders and congregation see no real health threat to warrant such restraint. We see this action against us as an illegitimate misuse of power.
MacArthur’s declaration comes amid an ongoing stalemate between Grace Community Church and Los Angeles officials, who want to see the church close its doors, arguing in-person worship services could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.
During an interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar earlier this month, MacArthur argued the California government is intentionally “targeting” the church, adding his congregants don’t “buy the deadly narrative” that all the restrictions in place are really simply for safety.
“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.”
He further explained to Keilar that churchgoers “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.”
A few weeks ago, MacArthur pointed to a double standard that has seen massive social justice protests but has continued to restrict religious gatherings. Jokingly, he opened up a recent sermon by saying, “Good morning, everyone. I’m so happy to welcome you to the Grace Community Church peaceful protest.”