When the state goes after the church to shut it down, is that separation of church and state?
In this case the state is California, county of Los Angeles, moving to hold a prominent megachurch pastor in contempt of court after he hosted three indoor services on Aug. 16 in defiance of a court order that his church must obey California’s coronavirus regulations.
L.A. County says Grace Community Church, led by pastor John MacArthur, should have to pay $8,000 in fines: $1,000 each for eight alleged acts of contempt. The county is also going after an additional $1,500 in fines for violations of court orders.
“Defendants’ actions this past Sunday likewise constitute four separate violations of the TRO and Court of Appeal Order by each Defendant. Therefore, the Court should sanction each Defendant $1,500 per violation, for a total of $6,000 per Defendant,” the request reads. MacArthur and his church are both named as defendants.
Filed Aug. 19, the county’s contempt request exemplifies the building tension between churches and local governments — particularly those run by Democrats — about restricting worship during a virus epidemic with ever-changing characteristics..
“Grace Church cannot thumb its nose at the court when decisions don’t go its way,” the order reads, in surprisingly spiteful language.
MacArthur’s attorney says the county is engaging in an “unconstitutional attack” on the church. “The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has decided to continue their unconstitutional attack against Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church,” Jenna Ellis, attorney for MacArthur, told FOX News on Aug. 19.
“Pastor MacArthur is standing firm that church is essential and has no plans to yield to this tyrannical Board, which is clearly defying the Constitution’s mandate to protect religious liberty,” she said.