John MacArthur is suing California for restrictions on worship
John MacArthur(Photo: YouTube / Grace Community Church)
Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church has filed a lawsuit against California for restrictions on indoor worship after the state issued a second lockdown warrant in response to Covid-19.
MacArthur recently began holding indoor services at its Sun Valley mega-church, despite Governor Gavin Newsom's recent lockdown orders banning church gatherings.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the California State Supreme Court for the county of Los Angeles, North Central District, citing Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Beccera and other officials including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as defendants.
In the complaint, MacArthur and Grace Community Church accuse government officials of violating their religious freedom and selectively restricting gatherings amid the pandemic.
"When many took to the streets to take part in 'political' or 'peaceful' protests allegedly directed against racism and police brutality, these protesters refused to comply with the pandemic restrictions a De facto exception for these preferred demonstrators, "the lawsuit says in part.
"California was targeting the wrong groups. California first lifted restrictions on outdoor gatherings – a boon to the illegal behavior of the" George Floyd "demonstrators. California then banned and then closed down chanting in church services all – unless they could change their services to be identical to the now legal protests. "
The lawsuit further argues that "it is time for California to recognize that disadvantaged religious minorities are not second-class citizens".
"California has no such power to determine whether churches are" essential "as the federal and state constitution has already done," the lawsuit adds.
"Grace Community Church provides the ministry of the Los Angeles community that its community and members rightly believe is essential, and the California Constitution specifically protects its fundamental rights in this regard."
MacArthur and the Church are represented by Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri, Special Counsel of the Thomas More Society.
"Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference," LiMandri said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.
"This is especially the case when the government has let the protesters run wild and has not similarly restricted marijuana dispensaries, large retail stores and factories, and abortion providers."
Grace Community Church initially adhered to California restrictions before changing course in recent weeks.
"I've been here for 50 years. The church is 63 years old and this church has never had a government mandate to shut down," MacArthur said in a recent interview on the Edifi With Billy Hallowell podcast. "When they had this mandate, it seemed so rare and unusual for us to listen."
MacArthur told Hallowell that it was "enough to get someone with common sense to pause and take steps to make sure no one is at risk after hearing terrible predictions of the death toll."
While the church initially moved to a live-stream model and stopped personal services within a few weeks, parishioners reappeared, according to MacArthur.
Grace Community decided to resume personal services. Church leaders said the government had no power to stop them from collecting.
In response, Los Angeles Department of Health officials reportedly threatened MacArthur with "repercussions such as fines and even possible arrest" if his church fails to comply with state orders.
"We are friends of this society, at all levels of this society. We have received awards, recognitions and plaques from the city government, the police department, all in authority for recognizing what an honorable community this church was," MacArthur said in an interview with Shannon Bream at Fox News.
"But the government has never invaded the area that belongs only to the Lord Jesus Christ and told us we cannot meet, we cannot worship, we cannot sing."
Recently Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks wrote a blog post in which he urged churches to consider whether or not it is a good idea to follow the Grace Community and reopen personal ministries.
"Churches in coastal cities during World War II met evening blackout requirements in case enemy planes hit the coasts. These churches did not insist that the government had no right to" restrict our worship, "wrote Leeman.
"In other words, just because you believe that God will ultimately justify your decision to disobey the government on the last day doesn't mean it is wise. You may have other options that avoid undue attention."
With the kind permission of Christian Post