“We are holding church,” California Pastor John MacArthur declared.
Grace Community Church will be allowed to continue worshipping after winning a key court decision.
The ruling is a critical victory for California churches under siege by politicians intent on shutting down houses of worship.
Los Angeles County attempted to shut down Grace Community Church and hold MacArthur in contempt for repeatedly violating the county ordinance that prohibits churches from holding indoor worship services.
But the church challenged the state and local orders, arguing that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order violated the state constitution.
Newsom ruled that churches were non-essential and must comply with the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
The court issued a preliminary injunction against Grace Church earlier this month, prohibiting it from conducting or participating in any indoor services until the case is resolved.
But a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge ruled that the church is entitled to a full trial and that MacArthur cannot be held in contempt of court until the case is settled. A new hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 13.
According to the ruling, the courts must decide on the constitutionality of the orders before the county can pursue charges against MacArthur. The contempt trial is not expected to be held until 2021.
Attorneys for the Thomas More Society, which is representing the church, said the ruling is significant and prevents the county’s “attempted rush to judgment in its continued prosecution” of MacArthur and his church.
“Los Angeles County continues to presume that its order is valid, with utter disregard for First Amendment protections,” said Thomas More special counsel Jenna Ellis.
“It’s tyranny to even suggest that a government action cannot be challenged and must be obeyed without question.”
“This case goes to the heart of what our founders designed for the purpose of legitimate government — not to be above the rule of law. Pastor MacArthur is simply holding church, which is clearly his constitutionally protected right in this country.”
MacArthur, who is also an internationally syndicated radio host, vowed his church would continue to meet. The church has attracted more than 6,000 worshippers in recent services.
“We are holding church,” he said. “The Lord Jesus requires us to meet together and we will continue to do that because we are commanded to and because it is our right.”
MacArthur said his church was grateful to the court for “recognizing the importance of these constitutional protections.”
“The reality is that the county cannot show that their order is even rational, much less necessary,” he stressed.
“They have also applied their orders arbitrarily and discriminatorily against churches and we enjoy a heightened protection in America to hold church. I’ll continue to stand firm and we will continue to fight to protect religious freedom for the church.”
Grace is not the only church in California fighting the state’s oppressive coronavirus restrictions.
Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park has been fighting Ventura County officials to continue holding indoor services.
A Ventura County court issued a preliminary injunction against the church on Sept. 28, but Pastor Rob McCoy said his church would not comply and would continue to pay the $500 dollar fine per service held.
“It’s a small price to pay to stand in defense of all the citizens in the community who have been so adversely affected by the draconian measures from the governor,” McCoy said.
“We love our neighbor. We are standing in defiance of the government overreach and the government that would call churches non-essential.”