Grace Community Church and The Master’s University Have Outbreaks of COVID-19 (UPDATED with Church Response)

(UPDATE 10/27) A fifth case of COVID-19 is now associated with Grace Community Church, you can check the case numbers here.

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(UPDATE) According to an email that went out to the Grace Community, the people who have COVID are part-time employees.

You may have seen a report on the news claiming that there is a COVID-19 outbreak at our church. There is no outbreak at Grace Church. We have three, part-time employees who tested positive and are now recovering at home, having never been hospitalized. As we enter the flu season, we encourage you to stay home if you are not feeling well or have COVID-19-like symptoms. We are going to meet for worship this Sunday to celebrate the Lord’s Table together.

Do those employees also attend the church? This statement raises as many questions as it answers.

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(UPDATE) Jenna Ellis, attorney for Grace Community Church just released this statement in response to the LA Times article about the COVID outbreak at the church:

Three very mild positive tests among more than 7000 people is hardly news. 0.0004% is not an ‘outbreak.’ The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader. It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.

I wrote the public relations firm back to inform them that the actual percentage is .043% (3 divided by 7000 multiplied by 100). If they issue a correction, I will note it. Perhaps this is why MacArthur continues to cite incorrect prevalence figures for CA.

(UPDATE) – The public relations firm wrote back and acknowledged the math error.

Ellis also has the survival rate wrong. It isn’t correct to speak about surviving an illness you have never had. She incorrectly refers to the number of deaths as a proportion of the population. However, she is incorrect there as well. Her number (.02%) would lead to a death toll of 65,000 deaths. The COVID death toll is just over 224,000. The number of cases is about 8.6 million. The fatality rate among people who have had the illness stands at about 2.5%. The actual fatality rate may be lower, but it isn’t as low as Ellis and company want you to believe.

The term outbreak has a precise definition taken from the California Department of Health. Here is the definition:

  • In non-residential congregate settings, e.g., workplaces, adult and child daycare facilities, K-12 schools and colleges/universities:
    • At least three probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases* within a 14-day period in people who are epidemiologically-linked† in the setting, are from different households, and are not identified as close contacts‡ of each other in any other case investigation.

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The L.A. Times reported late yesterday that three cases of COVID-19 are now associated with Grace Community Church in Sun Valley. This is John MacArthur’s church where the members don’t wear masks or keep a safe distance.

In addition, MacArthur’s college, The Master’s University reported two cases of COVID-19 on campus. According to a source close to the college, a third case was discovered within the past two days. Apparently, there is something to this coronavirus.

Pastor John MacArthur is in a court battle with Los Angeles County over a health order forbidding indoor worship in the county. He once told his congregation that it was good news that they were not wearing masks and were not social distancing. He also has declared that there is not a pandemic based on faulty statistics about the prevalence of COVID-19 in CA.

Julie Roys reminded me of this fact from the past. Two people died as a result of attending John MacArthur’s Shepherd Conference in March. In addition to these fatalities, there was also a couple who became quite ill and was hospitalized in the Spring.

 

Despite Indoor Services, Grace Community Church Doesn’t Want to Get Sued if You Get COVID-19 at the Church

Even though L.A. County said they placed them in the wrong spots, Grace Community Church posts signs disclaiming responsibility for any sickness if a person gets COVID-19 at the church. Given this disclaimer, it is not surprising that persons who say they attend Grace say they have to sign a COVID-19 waiver if they want to volunteer at the church.

John “There is no pandemic” MacArthur’s church requires a waiver from people who serve according to three sources who sent me copies of what they say members and staff are required to sign in order to work or volunteer at the church. Last week, I sent the waiver to the public relations firm representing the church with a request for confirmation and/or comment but did not get any response.

The full waiver is linked above and provided below but at least one point is worth mentioning. Remember when John MacArthur said:

the good news is that you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks.

Here is what the waiver sent to me requires a person to affirm:

While wearing a mask covering the mouth and nose while in the Church is not required, I assume additional risks of possible injury and death by not wearing a mask. I understand that I may request a mask from the Church and the Church will provide one for my use. I have been encouraged to use a mask at all times when engaging in Activities at the Church.

I am not a lawyer but if I wanted to challenge this waiver, John MacArthur’s words in church would be exhibit A. Furthermore, during the weeks that Grace has been meeting, no one on camera has worn a mask and no one has been encouraged to wear a mask. No social distancing has been observed.

Here is the waiver of liability:

WAIVER OF LIABILITY AND COVENANT NOT TO SUE NOTICE: THIS IS A LEGALLY BINDING AGREEMENT. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY.

I desire to participate in one or more activities or programs (each individually an “Activity”; collectively, “Activities”) offered, operated, sponsored or directed by, or otherwise involving, Grace Community Church of the Valley (“Grace Community Church”). The Activities may occur in whole or in part at or in the church (the “Church”) located at 13248 Roscoe
Boulevard, Sun Valley, California 91352 owned and operated by Grace Community Church. The Activities may involve, without limitation, attending or assisting with programs, events, instruction, and classes both inside and outside the Church and with or without supervision of Grace Community Church or any of its employees, contractors or personnel (collectively, “Personnel”). I understand that each Activity poses inherent risks of exposure to and/or contracting the COVID-19 virus. With full knowledge and understanding of these risks, and in consideration of my use of the Church and participation in Activities, I acknowledge and agree as follows:

1. Acknowledgement and Assumption of the Risk

I acknowledge that participation in Activities, use of the Church and any services provided by the Church subjects me to the following risks, among others: accidents which cannot be foreseen and personal injury, including but not limited to death or sickness from contracting the Coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID‑19”), the infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

I understand and acknowledge that:

A. The above list of risks is not inclusive of all the possible risks to which I will be subject in participating in Activities and using the Church and that the list in no way limits the extent or reach of this Waiver of Liability and Covenant Not to Sue (this “Agreement”) or any provision of this Agreement.

B. There is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any place where people are present.

C. While wearing a mask covering the mouth and nose while in the Church is not required, I assume additional risks of possible injury and death by not wearing a mask. I understand that I may request a mask from the Church and the Church will provide one for my use. I have been encouraged to use a mask at all times when engaging in Activities at the Church.

I understand that masks may reduce or mitigate the above risks, but are in no way a guarantee of safety. I further recognize that masks have limited capability as far as prevention of infection from contracting COVID-19.

I VOLUNTARILY ASSUME ALL OF THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH PARTICIPATION IN ANY ACTIVITY OR USE OF THE CHURCH, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO RISK OF INJURY, SICKNESS AND DEATH FROM CONTRACTING COVID-19 OR EXPOSURE TO COVID-19. I VOLUNTARILY ASSUME ALL SUCH RISKS WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND APPRECIATION OF THE RISKS INVOLVED.

2. Waiver of Liability and Covenant Not to Sue

I, on behalf of myself, my heirs, representatives, executors, administrators and assigns, hereby knowingly and intentionally (A) waive any and all liability of Grace Community Church and their respective successors, assigns, owners, shareholders, officers, directors, members and
Personnel (each individually, a “Released Party”; collectively, “Released Parties”) for, (B) release Released Parties from, and (C) covenant not to sue Released Parties for any and all causes of action, claims, injuries, liabilities, damages or demands of any nature whatsoever, whether known or unknown, anticipated or unanticipated, which I, my heirs, representatives, executors, administrators and assigns may now have, or may have in the future against any Released Party on account of any and all known and unknown, foreseen and unforeseen personal injuries, property damage, death, sickness or accident of any kind and whenever occurring, arising out of or in any way related to any Activity, any occurrence or event involving the Church, any Released Party or any service or program related to any thereof, whether such Activity, occurrence or event is supervised or unsupervised and however and whenever any injury, property damage, death, sickness or accident is caused. THIS WAIVER OF LIABILITY AND COVENANT NOT TO SUE SHALL BE EFFECTIVE EVEN THOUGH SAID LOSS, DAMAGE OR INJURY RESULTS OR HAS RESULTED FROM THE NEGLIGENCE, WRONGFUL ACTS, OMISSIONS, BREACH OF WARRANTY, OR STRICT TORT LIABILITY OF ANY RELEASED PARTY. NOTWITHSTANDING THE IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING SENTENCE, THIS WAIVER OF LIABILITY AND COVENANT NOT TO SUE SHALL NOT BE EFFECTIVE IN REGARD TO LOSS, DAMAGE OR INJURY RESULTING FROM THE GROSS NEGLIGENCE OR WILLFUL OR WANTON MISCONDUCT OF ANY OF THE RELEASED PARTIES.

3. Indemnification Agreement

I hereby agree to INDEMNIFY, HOLD HARMLESS AND DEFEND the Released Parties from and against any and all causes of action, claims, demands, losses, damages, liabilities and costs (including but not limited to attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by Released Parties or any thereof) of any nature whatsoever, including but not limited to those caused by the negligence of any Released Party (except for those resulting from the gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct of any Released Party), arising out of or in any way relating to my use of the Church or the services provided thereby or my participation in any Activity.

4. Miscellaneous

I certify that I am in proper physical and mental condition to participate in Activities and that I have no physical limitations that would preclude my safely using the Church or participating in Activities, subject to the risks assumed. I agree to read and abide by all rules from time to time posted in the Church or otherwise communicated to me. I agree to comply with requests and instructions of all Personnel. In the event of an accident, if I should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make medical decisions for myself, I hereby grant the Released Parties permission to administer necessary first aid, and/or to solicit emergency medical services as deemed necessary. This authorization includes permission for emergency medical transportation to the nearest medical facility for additional medical treatment.

I hereby voluntarily waive any right I may have to a trial by jury in any action, proceeding or litigation involving any Released Party. The laws of the State of California shall govern the rights and obligations of the parties to this Agreement and the interpretation, construction and enforceability thereof. I agree that any lawsuit brought against any Released Party shall be brought solely in The Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, North Central District. If any portion of this Agreement is held invalid, the remainder shall remain in full force and effect.

I hereby grant to Grace Community Church, and Grace Community Church reserves the right to use for promotional purposes any photographs taken by Grace Community Church at the Church or during any Activity. Such images may be used in Grace Community Church’s brochures, posters, website or other promotional materials without liability or payment.

I ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT BY SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT I AM RELIEVING THE CHURCH AND ALL RELEASED PARTIES OF ANY AND ALL LIABILITY FOR ANY LOSS, DAMAGE, INJURY, SICKNESS OR DEATH RESULTING FROM ANY ACTIVITY AND WAIVING MY RIGHT TO MAINTAIN A LAWSUIT AGAINST ANY OF THE RELEASED PARTIES, EXCEPT FOR ANY LIABILITY BASED UPON THEIR GROSS NEGLIGENCE OR WANTON AND WILFULL MISCONDUCT. I CERTIFY THAT MY AGE IS ACCURATELY SET FORTH BELOW; THAT, IF I AM AT LEAST 18 YEARS OF AGE, I AM LEGALLY COMPETENT TO SIGN THIS AGREEMENT; I HAVE CAREFULLY READ THIS AGREEMENT AND UNDERSTAND THAT THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT ARE LEGALLY BINDING UPON ME AND UPON MY ASSIGNS, HEIRS, REPRESENTATIVES, EXECUTORS AND ADMINISTRATORS; AND THAT I AM SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT, AFTER HAVING CAREFULLY READ IT, OF MY OWN FREE WILL.

A photocopy hereof, or a record of this Agreement sent and received by facsimile, email or other electronic transmission, shall be enforceable and shall have full legal effect as an original.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, this Agreement is duly executed this _____ day of_____________________, 2020.

______________________________
PRINTED NAME
______________________________
SIGNATURE

 

 

 

 

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 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.

California Judge Denies LA County Request for Restraining Order Against Grace Community Church But Affirms County’s Right to Forbid Indoor Worship

UPDATE (8/25/20) – Judge Beckloff issued his ruling today and declined to issue a restraining order on statutory grounds but told the county that nothing stopped them from enforcing their own Health Order. According to the judge the Court had no jurisdiction to enforce it. A hearing on the merits will be held September 4.

So far LA County has elected not to levy fines or send the authorities out to shut the church down. The court essentially said today that it is up to the county to enforce it or not. MacArthur and his supporters will see this as a victory, but the order remains in effect and the Court of Appeal has said it presumes that it is constitutional. The county could enforce it but may not have the courage to do so.

Read Judge Beckloff’s 8/25/20 decision.

In response to a request for a comment on Beckloff’s ruling, LA County issued this statement.

During this unprecedented health crisis, the Department of Public Health, along with thousands of businesses and millions of residents, has worked tirelessly to curb the transmission of COVID-19 in order to prevent serious illness and death among our residents.   It is deeply disappointing that the Court decided not to grant the County’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services, as it has done several times in recent weeks. We look forward to a favorable ruling when a full hearing is heard on the matter on September 4. It is also important to note that the County’s Health Officer Order prohibiting indoor gatherings, such as protests and religious services, remains valid and in effect. The Department of Public Health continues to ask residents to do their part and, when attending religious services please stay outdoors, wear a mask and practice social distancing.  Together we can beat the spread of this deadly virus.

Although not directly stated here, it does not appear that the County plans to enforce the Health Order before the September 4 hearing.

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Today before the Honorable Mitchell L. Beckloff, LA County applied again for a restraining order which would prevent Grace Community Church from holding indoor services. At the 8:30am hearing, both sides presented their arguments and the Judge Beckloff took the request for a temporary restraining order under submission. 

A decision is expected either later tonight or tomorrow.

Any restraining order would be in effect only until the September 4 hearing when the Superior Court is expected to rule whether or not the county can enforce the Health Order.

When a decision on the restraining order is announced, I will post it here.

Read: All posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church

Grace Community Church and LA County See Today’s Superior Court Action Differently; Updated with Court Orders

Today, Judge Mitchell Beckloff of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles twicw took up the matter of the County of Los Angeles v. Grace Community Church. According to the minute orders available from the County of LA court website, the judge ruled that the “Defendants (Grace Community Church) request for ‘expedited preliminary injunction discovery’ and a continuance of the hearing is denied.” Both sides came away declaring a positive outcome and another hearing is slated for Monday, August 24.

Read today’s order from Judge Beckloff (8:30am hearing)

Read today’s order from Judge Beckloff (3pm hearing)

In a press release, Grace Community Church said, “The Los Angeles County Superior Court announced on August 20, 2020, that there is no court order prohibiting Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from holding indoor worship services.” On the other hand, an LA County press release said, “A Superior Court judge has affirmed a state Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the validity of Los Angeles County’s Health Officer Order, including the prohibition on indoor church services, which a Sun Valley church has challenged as unconstitutional.”

Although I could get no further comment from either camp, the fact is that the prohibition on indoor services was never a court order. It is a Health Order from the LA County Health Officer. The Court of Appeal upheld the validity of the Health Officer’s Order and according to the LA County press release, the Superior Court judge today affirmed that ruling. Although the statement is not recorded in his order, it is possible that the judge said today that there is no court order prohibiting indoor worship while at the same time validating the Health Officer’s Order.

On August 24, LA County will ask LA Superior Court to consider issuing a temporary restraining order prohibiting indoor services. If such an order is issued, future services could be the basis for a contempt citation and fines.

See all articles on Grace Community Church v. LA County

 

 

L.A. County Applies for Contempt Order and Sanctions Against Grace Community Church and John MacArthur

Yesterday, LA County asked the Superior Court of California to hold Grace Community Church and John MacArthur in contempt of court for violating the August 14 modified temporary restraining order of Judge Chalfant and then the Court of Appeals ruling on August 15th by having services on August 16th and by refusing to allow County health officials access to the church.

Read the LA County application to hold Grace Community Church in contempt

LA County’s Health Order prohibits indoor worship services as one means of stopping the spread of COVID-19. John MacArthur and Grace Community Church believes the order infringes on their rights to gather and worship. Consequently, they have met for indoor worship in violation of the Health Order. On August 14, in response to a request from LA County for a restraining order to halt indoor worship, County Judge James Chalfant denied in part and granted in part the order by allowing Grace Community to meet if they wore masks and physically distanced. LA County then went to the Court of Appeal to ask for that court to set aside the lower court order which it did. At that point, Grace Community disobeyed the Health Order and did not wear masks or physical distance in the Sunday service. Now, the County wants the church and MacArthur held in contempt with sanctions applied.

The County requested a citation of contempt which could lead to a $1,000 fine and up to five days in jail and sanctions which, if imposed, could amount to $1,500 per violation. Depending on how many violations are determined by the court, the fines could be substantial.

In response, the church is not backing down. A press release issued this evening stated: “Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church…are the targets of a County of Los Angeles request to be held in contempt of court. Thomas More Society attorneys are representing the internationally followed preacher and his church and defending their religious freedoms against the county’s unconstitutional violation of the right to worship together.”

Thomas More/MacArthur suit against California

CA Court of Appeal Upholds Ban on Indoor Worship in John MacArthur Case (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Grace Community Church conducted an indoor meeting this morning with little masking or social distancing. In fact, near the beginning of the service, John MacArthur said, “the good news is that you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks.” You can hear that quote in the second part of the audio below.

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Yesterday, the California Court of Appeal set aside Judge Chalfant’s lower court partial denial of Los Angeles County’s restraining order on indoor worship at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church.

Read the Court of Appeal ruling

Los Angeles County filed an emergency request with the Court of Appeal to prevent Grace Community Church from having indoor services this morning.  In short, the Court of Appeal ruled that county’s Health Order had support from prior court rulings and was likely to be upheld at trial. The Court of Appeal held that the order should be upheld at least until the September 4th hearing, although the church will have an opportunity to present a rebuttal by August 25.