Holy war: Judge stops Los Angeles County’s fourth attempt to close church

by WorldTribune Staff, August 26, 2020

A superior court judge on Tuesday shot down Los Angeles County’s fourth attempt via its coronavirus lockdown order to stop indoor services at Grace Community Church.

Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur. / Facebook

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff rejected the county’s bid for a temporary restraining order against the evangelical megachurch in Sun Valley, ruling that the county failed to present new law or circumstances, Valerie Richardson reported for The Washington Times.

Paul Jonna, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which represents the church, described the county’s request as “both procedurally and substantively defective.”

“This was their fourth unsuccessful attempt to obtain a court order prohibiting indoor worship services at Grace Community Church,” said Jonna. “We look forward to fully vindicating our clients’ constitutionally protected rights in subsequent proceedings for this important case.”

“We are very grateful to Judge Beckloff for his reasoned opinion and for taking great care to review this very important matter,” said Pastor John MacArthur in a statement. “As I said in my declaration to the court, we see this action against us as an illegitimate misuse of power. It should shock the conscience of every Christian that churches are coming under assault from our own government simply for holding church. Church is essential.”

Last week, the California Court of Appeal set aside a lower-court ruling that would have allowed indoor services with masks and social distancing, but Judge Beckloff said that the appeals court “did not change this court’s order of Aug. 14 — the Court of Appeal stayed enforcement of it.”

The county said in a statement that the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order “prohibiting indoor gatherings, such as protests and religious services, remains valid and in effect.”

The church has sued the county and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, arguing that they have held churches to an unconstitutional double-standard by allowing protesters to flout the emergency coronavirus orders while taking a hard line on indoor worship.

Beckloff last week rebuffed Los Angeles County’s effort to hold Grace Community Church in contempt and sanction it over its defiance of coronavirus lockdown orders.

The judge ruled in the church’s favor after Los Angeles County sought more than $20,000 in penalties over MacArthur’s decision to hold in-person services at its 3,500-seat sanctuary.

Thomas More Society special counsel Jenna Ellis said the judge “correctly found there is no court order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services.”

“LA County continues to harass and target Pastor MacArthur,” Ellis said in a statement. “Having failed to get a court order to shut down the church they have sought three times, they’re going to try again to hauling us back into court.”

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