In August, John MacArthur Denied COVID-19 at Grace Community Church; In April, He Said Members Had Been Hospitalized

On August 30, John MacArthur told his congregation that “nobody in our congregation has ever been to the hospital with this [COVID-19].” According to MacArthur’s own words earlier this year in April, that is not true. When MacArthur explained to Phil Johnson why Grace Community Church was not meeting in person in April, MacArthur told Johnson (entire video is here):

The other thing that we talked about with the elders was if we defy this and if we say we’re going to meet anyway, we run the risk of exposing people to this illness needlessly. And why would we want to do that? Because this is a health issue, this is a health crisis. And since like any church, many of the people in our church are older. We wouldn’t want to expose them to that. We’ve only had, as far as I know, and this was up to yesterday, we’ve only had one couple in our church in the Spanish ministry who actually got the coronavirus. But that couple, and not an older couple either, wound up in the hospital because it was such a virulent experience for them.

MacArthur acknowledged that in April they had a younger couple very sick in the hospital. This awareness helped move MacArthur and the elders toward the decision not to have indoor in-person church. MacArthur said at the time it wouldn’t be right to put people in harm’s way. Watch:

Everything MacArthur said in April is still true.  It is still a health crisis. He still doesn’t know who is in his congregation who might be infected. However, now he clearly doesn’t understand the extent of the problem. He has been telling his congregation that there is no pandemic and only .0001 of Californians have COVID-19. Because he has a false understanding of the situation, he has taken his church in a potentially dangerous change of course.

Addendum

Since this was published several anonymous communications have come in alleging more cases of COVID at Grace Community Church. I am not able to confirm them but I have learned some interesting, to me at least, additional information.

One of the elders of GCC is Jon Scott. He is a physician who practices at a Kaiser Permanente location in Santa Clarita. In March, that same location was closed due to concerns over COVID-19. I don’t know what that means but it as a physician, surely he was aware of the ramping up of medical manpower to handle cases related to COVID-19.

Since I discovered the video from April, I have wondered how Pastor MacArthur became radicalized so to speak. How did he come to mouth QAnon talking points about the coronavirus? Today, I found this from a communication from him in May:

I noticed today that a report came out from the CDC which is the official group the Center for Disease Control, and they said that actually the number of deaths that have occurred during this COVID epidemic is half of what has been recorded, half. So we have been operating with numbers that are unrealistic. It has also come to light – and I think this is very, very interesting – it’s also come to light that half of the deaths occur to people in hospitals and aging homes where you have older people, because they’re the more vulnerable population. So the reality is that the vast majority of the population is really unaffected or mildly affected by this entire thing. The most dangerous place you could ever go turns out would be a hospital, because when you go into a hospital the staff there don’t have a vaccine against this. They’re exposed to it. And if there are other compromised patients, as there are in a crowded hospital, then the coronavirus is circulated in that hospital.

So we’re starting to learn that the folks who are just out in the world doing what we do, we’re the safest of all. The place you don’t want to be is, of all places, in a hospital, because that’s where the highest incidents of this infection at its most serious level takes place. So a lot of things coming out of this that I think are starting to remove the fear and help us to understand that we were told some things that just were not true about the affect of this.

By this logic, you could say you catch cancer at the hospital. That’s where the serious cancer is. Don’t go to the hospital if you have a stroke, you will just get worse. After all, that’s where the most serious stroke patients are.  In fact, if you avoid the hospital, by this way of thinking, you can avoid all kinds of awful things people have in hospitals. People die there.

Clearly his thinking began to change here as the quality of his sources and information deteriorated.

The latest I heard, and I heard a report today from a highly respected medical authority who basically said the death rate will be essentially the same as seasonal flu, no greater than that. We now know that. And in retrospect we would say if we’d known that at the beginning we certainly wouldn’t have shut the world down to the degree that we have and did such disastrous damage to so many lives. But having said that, we have to understand that the Lord allows certain things and certain things are the foolishness of men even at their best efforts; so here we are. But I just want to remind you that this is temporary, that this is not nearly as deadly as we were told, that the rate of death is about like the seasonal flu, it’ll run its course; and hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll come back together and we’ll join each other again and have a great celebration.

Estimates of death rates have varied widely but his certainty about his expert is misplaced. One of the best studies of fatality was conducted via random sampling in Indiana and found that COVID is indeed more deadly than the flu. MacArthur now seems so entrenched in his mindset that he may not be able to back away from the conspiratorial place he has gone.

John MacArthur Botches COVID-19 Statistics and Says He’ll Go to Jail Rather Than Close Indoor Church

Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles told Laura Ingraham that he would go to jail rather than comply with L.A. County’s Health Order and California Superior Court’s Injunction. Watch:

He also continues to falsely say there is only “one one hundredth of one percent” of 40 million Californians with COVID-19. As of today, 773,602 positive tests have come back in CA (1.96%), with 372,515 active cases currently (.94%). If MacArthur was correct, there would only be 3,951 cases in CA which is absurd.

Apparently, the church will continue to defy the Health Order and Court Order.

Last Sunday, MacArthur did so and preached a Sunday which specified a Christian nationalist vision for Christian government. A tweet from his attorney (and President Trump’s attorney as well) Jenna Ellis summarizes well the sermon:

Ellis is enthusiastic in her support. However, we do not live in a theocracy. Nothing in the Constitution requires a religious test for leaders to recognize the Christian God or operate according to any interpretation of the Bible. Surely, constitutional scholar Ellis knows this.

Tyranny Over the Mind of Man

In our history, there have been those who want Christianity to be privileged more than it is. One of the most famous quotes from Thomas Jefferson arose in opposition to Benjamin Rush’s expression of such a hope. In an August 22, 1800 letter from Rush to Jefferson, Rush wrote:

I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of Republicanism. Its Spirit is opposed, not only to the Splendor, but even to the very forms of monarchy, and many of its precepts have for their Objects, republican liberty & equality, as well as simplicity, integrity & Oconomy in government.3 It is only necessary for Republicanism to ally itself to the christian Religion, to overturn all the corrupted political and religious institutions in the World.

Jefferson wasn’t having it. He was always polite to his friend, but left no doubt about his view of religion allied with the republic. In a letter dated September 23 1800, Jefferson wrote:

The delusion into which the X. Y. Z. plot shewed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro’ the U. S.; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Jefferson vigorously thwarted any notion that he would support the alignment of Christianity and the government. In response, he made his famous declaration: “I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

Note the context of Jefferson’s bold statement. One form of tyranny over the mind of man is enforced Christianity (or any religion) in government.

John MacArthur Plans to Hold Church in Defiance of Court Injunction; Keeps Using Wrong COVID-19 Stats

On Fox News Thursday night, John MacArthur said he is planning to have church on Sunday despite the California Superior Court preliminary injunction barring indoor church. Watch:

In addition to appearing to promise to defy the court order, he again said only .01% of Californians have had COVID-19.

A statistic: One one hundredth of one percent of Californians have COVID, that’s the number and yet no one in the entire state of California is allowed to go inside a church. Doesn’t make sense.

As of September 11, California has 755,714 COVID-19 cases. With a population of just under 40-million, 1.9% of Californians have COVID-19. I have twice asked the public relations firm representing Grace for the source of MacArthur’s misinformation but with no reply.

Click here for all posts on L.A. County v. Grace Community Church

 

California Superior Court Prohibits Indoor Worship at Grace Community Church (UPDATED)

KNX 1070 Radio is reporting that Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued an injunction today that prevents Grace Community Church from engaging in indoor worship services.

Read Judge Beckloff’s Injunction

Read Judge Beckloff’s Ruling on the Injunction

L.A. County had sought an injunction against the church for refusing to abide by the County’s Health Order banning indoor worship services. Grace Community Church had been having such services without following masking and social distancing guidelines for over a month.

L.A. County issued this statement to me:

We are grateful that the Court has granted the County’s request for a preliminary injunction and upheld the County’s Health Officer Orders temporarily prohibiting indoor religious services during this time of widespread community transmission of COVID-19. Religious services are central to many of our residents’ lives, especially in these trying times, and services have been allowed to be held online and outdoors with physical distancing and the use of face coverings, and they may continue to do so. The issue is a reminder that we must all work together and modify our activities to contain and slow this virus, which has caused the death of more than 6,000 Los Angeles County residents and has made thousands of others gravely ill.

We went to court only after significant efforts to work with the leaders of Grace Community Church to protect public health. We now look forward to working with church leaders on a plan to move services outdoors with physical distancing and the use of face coverings, which will allow worshipers to gather for religious observances in a manner that is lower risk and consistent with public health directives. This protects worshipers and the entire County community.

On August 30, MacArthur told his congregation that there is no pandemic and doubled down on that claim the following Sunday. Then, he falsely claimed that only “one hundredth of one percent” CA residents had COVID. The percentage as of now is 1.8%.

Grace Church issued a press release after I published this post. Here is most of it with comments from the attorneys and John MacArthur.

Special Counsel Charles LiMandri said, “We are disappointed in the ruling on the preliminary injunction as the court did not apply the strict scrutiny analysis to the government order that we believe is required by the California Constitution and legal precedent. The court also did not properly consider the medical and scientific evidence that the current number of people with serious COVID-19 symptoms no longer justifies a shuttering of the churches. Nor do we believe that the court gave adequate consideration to the fact that churches have been treated as second-class citizens compared to the tens of thousands of protestors. More than ever, California’s churches are essential. Therefore, we plan to appeal this ruling to ultimately vindicate our clients’ constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.”

Special Counsel Jenna Ellis said, “Although this is a temporary setback, we will continue to fight for Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s constitutionally protected right to hold church. While the judge did go out of his way to repeatedly state that he is not ruling on the merits, only a ruling at this very preliminary stage, Pastor MacArthur is still harmed because he has every right to hold church. Church is essential, and no government agent has the runaway, unlimited power to force churches to close indefinitely. The County’s argument was basically ‘because we can,’ which is the very definition of tyranny. Without limiting government’s power in favor of freedom and protected rights, we have no liberty. We will fight for religious freedom, as our founders did when they wrote the First Amendment.”

Pastor John MacArthur said, “In an inexplicable ruling, the judge said the ‘scale tipped in favor of the county.’ 1/100th of 1% of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all? That is not what our founders said. Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government—including the judicial branch—is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches.”

It is baffling to me where MacArthur is getting his “1/100th of 1%” figure. If he was accurate, CA would only have 4,000 cases. Instead, CA has just over 749,000 cases for about 1.9% of the population. He has yet to respond to my requests about this claim or others he made this past Sunday.

While there is no hint in these statements about what MacArthur and Grace will do Sunday, there is no indication he will back off. The next scheduled hearing is October 22.

See all posts on L.A. County v. Grace Community Church here. 

L.A. County Fines Grace Community Church for Signage Infraction

Claiming the church’s signs were misplaced, L.A. County fined Grace Community Church $1000.

Grace Community posted signs warning people not to enter if they have symptoms of disease and claiming the church has no responsibility if sickness occurs. Here is what church attorney Jenna Ellis showed on Twitter.

The sign says:

By entering the Grace Community Church campus, you assume the risk of contracting COVID-19, and you agree that the church cannot be held responsible if that happens. Please do not enter if you have an elevated temperature, a cough, or any flu-like symptoms.

Strange, I thought John MacArthur preached that worry over COVID-19 was a part of a plot to deceive the church.

In any case, the signs are up around the church but they must not be where the Health Order prescribes them to be. It appears that L.A. County is working up to a more strict enforcement of the Health Order, perhaps hoping that MacArthur will see the light. Given his recent stance that there is no pandemic, I doubt he is going to change his position.

John MacArthur Doubles Down on No Pandemic Claim

In his sermon today at Grace Community Church, pastor John MacArthur told his congregation that his claim last week that there is no COVID-19 pandemic was not made off the cuff. He said again that by the CDC definition of a pandemic there is no pandemic. Watch:

MacArthur is making yet another common mistake by referring to the number of COVID-19 cases as compared to the population of California. This is not how epidemiologists think about the lethality of a disease. You compare the number of deaths to the number of cases to get the mortality rate.

MacArthur said that the definition of a pandemic is that “1 to 3% of the people die.” By his definition of a pandemic (1 to 3% of the population), the Spanish Flu epidemic would not have counted as such because less than one percent of the American population died. According to the CDC website, 675,000 Americans died during the 1918-1919 season. With a population of 104.5-million in 1919, well under 1% died (.65%).

MacArthur also said the number of people who have COVID in California is “one hundredth of one percent out of 40 million. That’s not a death statistic, that’s a COVID statistic.” Currently, the number of cases in CA stands at 735,742. Given the population of just less than 40-million people in CA, the percentage of the population with a positive COVID diagnosis is a little over 1.8%. Even if the calculation used active cases (373,175), the percentage is .94% or almost 1%.

I need to research this a bit more but so far the only definition on the CDC website of a pandemic I found is this one:

Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people. Epidemics occur when an agent and susceptible hosts are present in adequate numbers, and the agent can be effectively conveyed from a source to the susceptible hosts.

MacArthur also said that Grace is the only church in CA allowed to meet indoors. I question that interpretation. The court has declined to issue a court order to require Grace to comply with L.A. County’s Health Order but has told L.A. County that the County may enforce the Health Order forbidding indoor meeting. L.A. County has chosen not to enforce the order.

In any case, the court is set to rule this week on the injunction with L.A. County as the plaintiff  in the case.

L.A. County and Grace Community Church Continue Dispute in Court Today

Today, L.A. County and Grace Community Church met in court today in the courtroom of Judge Mitchell Beckloff in their dispute over indoor worship services. The L.A. Country Health Order forbids indoor worship but is finding it difficult to enforce since Grace will not abide by it.

According to an article in today’s LA Daily News, a decision may not come for several days. According to the report, the arguments pertained to a compelling state interest to regulate religion versus the freedom of religious bodies to control their practices.

 

L.A. County Terminates Parking Lease Agreement with Grace Community Church

In a letter dated August 28 2020, the L.A. County Flood Control District informed John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church that it is terminating a lease agreement on three lots Grace uses for church parking. According to the church, they have used the lots continuously since 1975. The letter begins:

In accordance with General Provision C of Rental Agreement No. 01-18 (“Agreement,” copy enclosed) between the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and Grace Community Church (Grace), the District is exercising its right to terminate the Agreement by giving a minimum of 30-day written notice of intention to terminate. Please be advised that by this notice, the District will hereby terminate the Agreement effective October 1, 2020. Accordingly, pursuant to the Agreement, Grace shall vacate and remove all of its improvements and personal property placed on the premises (as defined in  the Agreement) on or before October 1, 2020. If Grace fails to vacate the premise as required, the District may enter the premises and remove Grace’s personal property in accordance with the Agreement and applicable law, and Grace will be responsible for any resultant expenses incurred by the District. Any improvements, including fencing, that are not removed will become the property of the District at its option. Effective October 2, 2020, or thereafter, the District will secure the premises.

Read the letter from the L.A. County Flood Control District

The church has until October 1. The next hearing on L.A. County v. Grace Community Church is September 4. The county’s actions appear to be a response  to Grace’s violation of their Health Order banning indoor worship. However, there may be time for movement on both sides before the lease agreement runs out. The outcome of the September 4 hearing may have some influence on this matter as well.

For all of the posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church, click here.

For my ongoing tally of churches who are associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, click here.

 

About that Quiet CDC Report of Deaths from COVID

Yesterday before his sermon, John MacArthur gained loud applause from his congregation when he announced the following news:

In truth, 6% of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID, 94% cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID.

There is no pandemic.

MacArthur may have gotten this news from his attorney Jenna Ellis, who in turn may have gotten it from Gateway Pundit.

I normally would not link to Gateway Pundit since he appears to have gone full QAnon but I will in this case because I want to demonstrate how misinformation works.  Joe Hoft cites a QAnon source who claims that the CDC “quietly updated the COVID number to admit that only 6% of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from COVID. That’s 9,210 deaths.”

Hoft calls his post a “Shock Report” and says the CDC “silently updated their numbers this week” implying there was something to hide or that there was something new about this week’s report. Before MacArthur told his congregation that only 6% of deaths were due to COVID, he said: “A rather telling report came out this week and for the first time, we heard the truth.”

The First Time?

In fact, there was nothing new about the findings in this report.

Via the Wayback Machine, I went back to May and found that 7% of deaths had COVID alone listed as a cause of death.

Here is the CDC comorbidity report summary for June 20 showing COVID as the only cause mentioned for 7% of the deaths.

How about July?

By July 18, the percent had dipped down to 6%. That took place the week ending July 4.  That is the percent today and has been since July.

There was No Quiet CDC Admission but There is a Pandemic

Looking back over the CDC reports, these breathless QAnon reports look silly. There was no new revelation, change, or admission. Throughout the pandemic, people with underlying health vulnerabilities have died because they became infected with COVID-19.  Without COVID, those people would be alive or at least would have lived longer then they did.

So much of the conspiratorial thinking is focused on the U.S. What about the rest of the world? Have all other countries been taken in by our “deep state?” Is Dr. Fauci so powerful that he can manipulate every nation on Earth to shutdown?

There is a pandemic. It is irresponsible to say otherwise. When you read the next “shock report,” remember this one, check the sources and get a second and third opinion from people who have some knowledge in research.

Watch MacArthur’s announcement:

As of September 1, Youtube removed this video. I have a copy of it hosted here.

For a great summary of the death data, read this from Bob Anderson at the CDC.

I was quoted in this Religion News Service article on this topic.

For all of the posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church, click here.

For my ongoing tally of churches who are associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, click here.

John MacArthur: There is No Pandemic

Just now at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, John MacArthur told his congregation,

In truth, 6% of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID, 94% cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID.

There is no pandemic.

Watch:

MacArthur cited a recent CDC report on causes of COVID-19 deaths (Here is the CDC report in question). It provides the comorbid conditions for the vast majority of deaths triggered by COVID-19. COVID-19 and something else contributed to most deaths. What MacArthur seems to be unaware of is that most of those people would be alive today if they had not contracted COVID-19.

What is embarrassing for MacArthur is that this has been known for months. The CDC has released reports before showing the underlying health conditions of deaths and hospitalized patients.  Yet, in ominous tones, MacArthur makes it appear he is revealing some previously concealed truth. While his scary announcement may serve his persecution narrative, it also makes his congregation and followers more vulnerable to the virus.

Although he started out saying he isn’t an expert, he quickly made an erroneous judgment about the data and declared no pandemic to exist despite the reality all around. John MacArthur knows when the experts don’t.

UPDATE: I learned after I posted that QAnon supporters have been talking up this CDC report and Donald Trump retweeted one of them this morning. As I mentioned, the controversy over causes of death and underlying conditions is not a new one. The CDC has been reporting on underlying conditions for months and most deaths are due to multiple causes (e.g. in May, the percent of deaths with COVID-19 alone as a listed cause of death was 7%). That MacArthur touted the report as some kind of revelation makes me wonder where he gets his news and information.

The possible source for this misinterpretation of the CDC data is one of MacArthur’s attorneys in his legal battle to continue worship services indoors – Jenna Ellis. She tweeted a misleading post from far right blog Gateway Pundit on the CDC report very early this morning.

MacArthur attributed his false information to Satan:

It’s clear to us the fabrication of numbers because they’re including people who had two or three comorbidities, we know all of that. We know there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with the virus. There’s another virus loose in the world and that’s the virus of deception and the one who’s behind the virus of deception is the arch deceiver, Satan himself. And it’s not a surprise to me that in the midst of all this deception, the great effort that is going on is to shut down churches that preach the Gospel. So this is not a political speech, by the way. But it does not surprise me that they want to shut down those who preach the Gospel because the architects of this level of deception are not a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. They’re a part of the kingdom of darkness.

Here is a great summary of the facts from the CDC’s weekly report of death data.

I wrote more about this here and was quoted on this story at Religion News Service.

For all of the posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church, click here

For my ongoing tally of churches who are associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, click here