Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California is affirmed in its right to host indoor worship services after a Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled that there is no court order preventing it. The ruling comes just a mere week after an emergency order enacted by the California Court of Appeals made it again illegal for the church to meet indoors.
“We are pleased with the outcome today. Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff correctly found there is no court order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services,” said Jenna Ellis, one of the Thomas More Society attorneys representing the church and Pastor John MacArthur.
“LA County continues to harass and target Pastor MacArthur. Having failed to get a court order to shut down the church they have sought three times, they’re going to try again by hauling us back into court. Ironically, LA County said in its application for contempt that, ‘Grace Church cannot thumb its nose at the court when decisions don’t go its way,’ yet that’s precisely what LA County is now doing themselves. We will simply continue to defend our client’s constitutionally protected rights because church is essential,” she added.
For weeks, Grace has been embroiled in legal fights with the state of California and the city of Los Angeles for the right to meet and hold indoor services. Now, they are suing both the county and the state for violating their constitutional right to worship. They began legal proceedings after a cease and desist letter from the city of Los Angeles threatened MacArthur and his church with a “$1000 fine or MacArthur’s arrest.”
While MacArthur and his church originally opted to obey the early shutdown orders from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Grace Community Church began meeting in person again in late July.
“In response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction,” the church’s statement said. “Faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.”
According to MacArthur, the state and county do not have the authority to limit his church’s freedom to worship.
“We do not need the state’s permission to serve and worship our Lord as He has commanded,” the church said. “Freedom of worship is a command of God, not a privilege granted by the state.”
“It has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship,” MacArthur and the church’s elders added. “When, how, and how often the church worships is not subject to Caesar. Caesar himself is subject to God.”