A Los Angeles megachurch held indoor services on Sunday just hours after an appeals court blocked a lower-court ruling that would have allowed the services to be held legally.
The California Court of Appeal issued a stay of a lower court judge’s order blocking Los Angeles County’s attempt to shut down Grace Community Church.
The lower court judge, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, had rejected the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against the church and instead ordered churchgoers to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing.
But the appeals court overturned Chalfant’s decision, arguing that the dangers of the coronavirus outweigh the right to attend an indoor church service.
“As between the harm that flows from the heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19 (namely “serious illness and death”) and the harm that flows from having to conduct religious services outdoors instead of indoors, the balance at this early stage favors issuance of a stay,” the court said in its opinion.
The church’s pastor, John MacArthur, held services on Sunday anyways.
“They don’t want us to meet, that’s obvious,” MacArthur said from the pulpit. “They’re not willing to work with us. They just want to shut us down. But we’re here to bring honor to the Lord.”
He said it was “hard to figure out exactly what the city is trying to do with us and to us,” given the many mixed messages he has received from the courts.
But “we’re not meeting because we want to be rebellious,” he said. “We’re meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and worship Him.”
MacArthur said the church would have complied with Chalfant’s order, but “that was not enough for the city.”
“They went to the appellate court Saturday late, and had that order removed,” he said. But the “good news,“ he said, is “you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks.”