A Sun Valley church that repeatedly flouted health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic will be paid $800,000 to settle its legal battle with Los Angeles County and the state — with the county Board of Supervisors voting Tuesday to pay half that cost.
Los Angeles County has already spent more than $950,000 in attorneys fees and other costs in the case of Grace Community Church, according to a legal summary provided to the board.
Led by Pastor John MacArthur, the church defied county health orders again and again over the past year, most notably by continuing to hold indoor services despite a ban on such gatherings, while also refusing to enforce mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements for church-goers.
County health officials repeatedly cited the church, then took the matter to court to obtain an injunction requiring the church to adhere to health regulations, saying they were essential to control the spread of COVID- 19. The church, meanwhile, sued the state and the county, claiming the COVID rules amounted to constitutional violations of religious freedom.
Last September, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued a preliminary injunction sought by the county, saying the “potential consequences of community spread of COVID-19 and concomitant risk of death to members of the community, associated and unassociated with the church, outweighs the harm that flows from the restriction on indoor worship caused by the (Los Angeles County) health order.”
But the church essentially ignored the injunction, continuing to hold indoor services and violating other health mandates. That led county attorneys to seek a contempt ruling against the church.
Grace Community Church attorneys fought back, filing a motion to have the injunction lifted and the contempt request dismissed, citing two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In one, a Catholic diocese and a group of Jewish synagogues successfully challenged New York’s restrictions on churches. The high court later struck down the indoor worship ban while allowing caps on attendance and a ban on singing, according to the church’s attorneys.
There were multiple coronavirus outbreaks at Grace Community Church, which early in the pandemic supported health mandates and offered livestreaming online services, the Los Angeles Times reported. When MacArthur later changed his tune, he said the county’s public health restrictions were a government ploy to control Christians, according to the newspaper.
In a letter to supporters of the John MacArthur Charitable Trust, obtained by The Times, MacArthur called the settlement a “monumental victory” and said “there is no circumstance that can cause the church to close. The church is not only a building but is the bride of Christ and exists to proclaim the truth.”
The county’s $400,000 payment will come out of the public health budget.
15 comments for "LA County to pay $400,000 to Sun Valley church that defied COVID rules"
I love how religion brings us all together.
If ya like being all together.
Grace Community Church appears to care more about filling pews and collection plates than their parishioners’ lives…
Why read into an article and judge the church’s motive to be money when clearly they were standing up for religious freedom which the courts ultimately supported and ruled a monetary payment was deemed appropriate for violating that freedom? We may not all agree when is the right time to step up and fight, especially when we’re in a pandemic. I do appreciate those that do step up and not let media and peer pressure sway them to stay silent.
Tim Scott says
Instead of “read into” how about starting with “just read” the article.
No court backed this pastor. The state court issued an injunction FOR THE COUNTY, which the pastor ignored. This lead to multiple outbreaks centered on his church.
He sued in federal court and the case was settled…not ruled on by any judge. It would have taken years, and enormous legal costs, to see the case through to a conclusion, so the county and state just paid the money grubber off…it’s cheaper. And the monetary payment is DAMAGES…lost income…what didn’t come into the collection plate. Poor little pastor John had a rough time with his business lagging.
And once again, this has absolutely nothing to do with religious freedom. Plenty of people are gathering to worship on Sunday WITHOUT breaking the state laws or contributing to the spread of disease. I am in fact among them. Has my church had to rein in on some construction projects due to lost income? Yeah we have. Has it been a learning experience, availing ourselves of all the available technology? Yeah, it has. Fortunately, our pastor is a genuine man of god and has not shirked from the effort or put the finances ahead of the flock. That’s not John MacArthur’s way, clearly…his church is a business.
stop being a snowflake lol the church one the county lost.
Tim Scott says
You forgot the talking point again Keith. Keep that up and Wrecks and company will be looking for a replacement for you.
The Church should never sue in the courts of this world.
Mr. Rocha says
It is truly a blessing to see that there is still a remanence of respect for religious freedom in this county. Hopefully this will encourage not only Christians but all liberty loving Americans to stand up against these unconstitutional attacks and mandates on Americans.
Tim Scott says
This has nothing to do with religious freedom. The guy recognized immediately that gathering physically for worship was going to spread disease, so he did the right thing and went virtual. As he says “it isn’t about the building, the church is THE PEOPLE.”
But that building is where his collection plate passes, so gathering on line just wasn’t doing it for him and he put GOD’S PEOPLE at risk to fill his own coffers.
By the way, if you want to sling the word “unconstitutional” around you better be ready and able to back up the accusation. This was your one free pass.
Mr. Rocha says
It is obvious you don’t know what your talking about when it comes to the decisions that were made early in 2020 and how or why things changed when more information and data was available. It is also obvious you don’t know what scripture teaches about the gathering of the saints or how and where most of there funding comes from. So I will respond one time, you do not have any authority to hand out passes nor does anyone need one from you. Your intimidation tactics will not work with me and hopefully nobody will be intimidated by you. Good Day Sir.
Boy, are you wrong Mr. Rocha.
Pastor John MacArthur is so wrong.
Tim Scott says
Another church that’s all about the money. Sad to see.
Yes, John. You are wrong.