UPDATE: Hours after this article was published, the California Court of Appeal issued a stay of the lower court’s order, allowing the county’s Health Order to remain in effect and prohibiting John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church from meeting indoors.
On Sunday morning, the church met anyway — inside, unmasked, and without adhering to social distancing.
MacArthur noted the church’s defiance during the service, saying, “the good news is that you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks.” The congregation cheered in response.
The original article is below.
(RNS) — Megachurch pastor John MacArthur and his congregation can continue to meeting indoors for worship, a California judge ruled Friday (August 14).
But they must wear face coverings and practice social distancing, according to a California Superior Court judge’s order.
Los Angeles County health officials had sought temporary restraining order barring the church from violating health orders that ban large indoor meetings and singing during meetings.
The judge granted part of the restraining order request and denied part of it.
For now, the church can meet indoors, as long as they post the judge’s order. County health officials must also be allowed on the church property to verify that the order is being complied with.
MacArthur and his church had been meeting for weeks with no social distancing or mask. The church’s elders and the pastor had previously claimed that the government had no authority to regulate their worship services.
The pastor struck a more conciliatory tone after the hearing.
“I am very grateful the court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us because he is allowing us to meet,” MacArthur told Fox News in a statement. “This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. This also gives us an opportunity to show that we are not trying to be rebellious or unreasonable, but that we will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
The church filed suit this week, saying the state’s restrictions on large group meetings and singing restricted its religious freedom. County officials then sued the church. They are seeking an injunction to require the church to comply with COVID-19 restrictions — including barring large group indoor worship and requiring social distancing at outdoor worship.
A hearing on the preliminary injunction scheduled on September 4