The Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction September 10 against Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur, refusing to follow the U.S. and California State constitutional protections for churches. The ruling fails to apply the appropriate constitutional standard of review.
The order prohibits the church from “conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services” and also bans outdoor worship unless onerous restrictions are followed in a heavy-handed move against the internationally known preacher and his congregation. MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s attorneys from the Thomas More Society said the judge refused to consider their important separation of powers arguments “in any meaningful fashion” and essentially “ducked the issue.”
Special Counsel Charles LiMandri said, “We are disappointed in the ruling on the preliminary injunction as the court did not apply the strict scrutiny analysis to the government order that we believe is required by the California Constitution and legal precedent. The court also did not properly consider the medical and scientific evidence that the current number of people with serious COVID-19 symptoms no longer justifies a shuttering of the churches. Nor do we believe that the court gave adequate consideration to the fact that churches have been treated as second-class citizens compared to the tens of thousands of protestors. More than ever, California’s churches are essential. Therefore, we plan to appeal this ruling to ultimately vindicate our clients’ constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.”
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Special Counsel Jenna Ellis said, “Although this is a temporary setback, we will continue to fight for Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s constitutionally protected right to hold church. While the judge did go out of his way to repeatedly state that he is not ruling on the merits, only a ruling at this very preliminary stage, Pastor MacArthur is still harmed because he has every right to hold church. Church is essential, and no government agent has the runaway, unlimited power to force churches to close indefinitely. The County’s argument was basically ‘because we can,’ which is the very definition of tyranny. Without limiting government’s power in favor of freedom and protected rights, we have no liberty. We will fight for religious freedom, as our founders did when they wrote the First Amendment.”
Pastor John MacArthur said, “In an inexplicable ruling, the judge said the ‘scale tipped in favor of the county.’ 1/100th of 1% of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all? That is not what our founders said. Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government—including the judicial branch—is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches.”
Read the Ruling explaining the Order Granting Preliminary Injunction, issued September 10, 2020, by Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff in the Superior Court of California – County of Los Angeles – Central District in County of Los Angeles et al. v. Grace Community Church et al. here