Pastor John MacArthur has received a cease-and-desist letter from Los Angeles officials after conducting in-person church services in defiance of Gov Gavin Newsom’s “unconstitutional” lockdown order.
Grace Community Church resumed services on July 26, after accusing civic leaders of exceeding their “legitimate jurisdiction” with “intrusive restrictions” by limiting and suspending church gatherings indefinitely.
Los Angeles county government officials responded to the church’s move by threatening repercussions, such as a daily $1,000 fine and the possible arrest of Dr MacArthur, according to the church’s legal counsel.
Thomas More Society lawyer Charles LiMandri, who will represent Dr MacArthur and the church as Special Counsel said: “It is unconstitutional for Governor Newsom and the State of California to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment.”
Mr LiMandri went on to say: “It is time for Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti to recognize what President Trump has already proclaimed: churches are providing an ‘essential’ service to the people. Therefore, they must be allowed to serve the people in the manner in which God has called them.”
Attorney Jenna Ellis, who’s also representing the church, said: “Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church are not disobeying the Constitution; it is California’s Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that are defying their constitutional obligation to protect religious freedom and church assembly.”
Ms Ellis, who is also the senior legal adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign and private counsel to President Trump went on to say: “Our American system of government specifically recognizes that our individual, fundamental right to free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly is a pre-political, God-given, inalienable right. That right is not given by the government or the Constitution, but rather, government is mandated by the Constitution to preserve and protect it for the church.”
“Grace Community Church has every right to assemble without impossible and unreasonable infringement from the state, and the state has absolutely no power to impose the restrictions it is demanding. Church is essential, and the government has no power to arbitrate whether religious organizations are essential. This is not about health and safety; it is about targeting churches,” she added.
Rev Franklin Graham urged his near 9-million followers to support Dr MacArthur at this time, saying if he were in Southern California, he would be attending the in-person service.
“[MacArthur] said, ‘It has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship,'” Rev Graham said in a post on Facebook.
“They will not render to Caesar what is God’s, so they will continue to meet as the church every Sunday. I agree with Pastor MacArthur and appreciate his call for ‘the church to be the church in this world,'” he added.