Just days after Los Angeles County fined Pastor John MacArthur‘s Grace Community Church $1,000/day for its violation of a sign ordinance, the COVID-denying church has been blocked from hosting indoor services.
For more than a month now, MacArthur has been celebrating the lack of social distancing and face masks in his congregation. A couple of weeks ago, he falsely claimed, “There is no pandemic.” And he continues to defy local regulations about indoor gatherings.
That’s why, yesterday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued a preliminary injunction against the church. Beckloff explained that the county had permitted MacArthur’s congregation to gather, even indoors, as long as they wore masks and practiced social distancing. They didn’t do that.
It’s just that simple.
… The Church is violating various health orders through its indoor worship services… The Church’s continuing violation constitutes a public nuisance, per se… As the County has no adequate remedy at law, injunctive relief is warranted to prevent ongoing violations of the various health orders.
While the court is mindful that there is no substitute for indoor worship in the “spiritual refuge” of a sanctuary, the court cannot ignore the County Health Order does not dictate a ban on worship. Instead, it provides any worship must take place other than indoors. The County Health Order allows worship to occur outdoors, virtually through the internet and in any manner that is not indoors with a large gathering of people. This feature of the County Health Order mitigates — but certainly does not eliminate — the harm that will be suffered by the Church’s congregants through restricting their indoor worship.
Like the Court of Appeal when considering the stay, the court finds the balance of harms tips in favor of the County…
The question now is what the church will do. Knowing MacArthur, he’ll probably try to hold an in-person, indoor, mask-free, no-distancing service this weekend — and if anyone tries to arrest him, he’ll scream “PERSECUTION.” It’s just ready-made for YouTube. (The irony there, of course, is that local officials are trying to protect members of the congregation. MacArthur wants them to suffer.)
When that inevitably happens, remember this: No one’s stopping him from preaching. No one’s shutting down his free speech. He can livestream his sermons. He can speak outdoors. He can even do it indoors if he just follows the rules.
But it’s better for his brand to do the dumbest thing possible: Preach to a pack of maskless sardines in the midst of a pandemic.
***Update***: MacArthur said he still plans to hold church this weekend. The clash is forthcoming.
(via Religion News Service)