Screenshot of Grace Community Church pastor John MacArthur speaking at a service held in Sun Valley, California on July 26, 2020, against public health regulations banning indoor worship.
LOS ANGELES (CN) – A southern California mega-church on Thursday sued Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti over public health orders to ban indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic.
Grace Community Church claims religious discrimination by city and state based on Covid-19 health ordinances that, among other things, prohibit indoor worship, according to a complaint filed with the LA County Superior Court on Thursday.
"This is not the first time we have stood up for the truth as the Church of Christ," Pastor John MacArthur said in a statement. "We will continue to stand up for the truth today, as we have every day in our 63-year history, and as the biblical New Testament Church has done for more than 2,000 years."
LA County has also hit Mega Church and MacArthur with a public harassment complaint for holding indoor services attended by thousands of exposed believers in violation of Covid-19 public health regulations.
The county said it filed its complaint "reluctantly" after working with the church for several weeks to enable the services to meet the county's health mandates.
"For the health and safety of both the faithful and the wider community, indoor services within the county have been banned since mid-July," said a statement from the county, without commenting on the details of its complaint. "One thing is certain: we will not be able to force our way out of this pandemic, and we need everyone who does their part to keep themselves and each other safe and healthy."
However, the church claims that the city's injunction issued in late July threatened the church with a daily $ 1,000 fine or arrest.
Grace Church also names the state and county public health directors, the LAPD chief of police, the California attorney general, and the LA County sheriff. The Church alleges violations of their rights to freedom of expression, equal protection, separation of powers, and due process under California law, among other things.
The Church and MacArthur are represented by Thomas More Society Special Adviser Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri.
According to the complaint, the Church resumed Sunday services on July 26 "to join millions of Americans to decide that enough is enough."
"We hoped Los Angeles County would see its mistake on its own, but after attempting negotiations with their attorney, California is still eager to target churches – particularly the Grace Community Church," Ellis said in a statement.
In a statement, LiMandri said: “Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference. This is especially the case when the government has given free rein to protesters and has not similarly restricted marijuana dispensaries, large retail stores and factories, or abortion providers. "
As of Thursday, LA County has reported over 216,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and over 5,100 deaths. While California has reported over 593,000 cases, that number doesn't include Thursday's totals.
Nearly 2,000 new cases and 64 deaths have been reported in LA County alone. Updates from the other southern counties of Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, and others across the state are likely to bring the total number of confirmed infections in California to over 600,000 by the morning.
Over 10,000 Californians have died from the virus that causes Covid-19.
The Golden State saw infections spike in early June after health regulations were relaxed to allow certain parts of the economy – and the churches – to reopen.
Emails to LA County, Garcetti, and Newsom health officials were not replied to immediately.