A California church that was persecuted for reopening too soon amid the 2020 COVID lockdowns has won a resounding victory, with the state and the Los Angeles County government agreeing to pay $400,000 each for infringing on the church’s religious liberty.
Pastor John MacArthur reopened Grace Community Church after initially complying with state COVID restrictions, according to Religion News Service.
The church also defied public health orders that tried to limit church attendance, even while grocery stores and other retailers were permitted to stay open at full capacity.
At the time, in July of 2020, MacArthur wrote:
“…in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services. … The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church.”
During the first wave of COVID-related restrictions, California aggressively targeted churches for discrimination and harassment. MacArthur and his church were repeatedly threatened with fines and even jail time. Overzealous L.A. County officials even barred the church from using property it had leased to use for parking.
This is not the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that religious services cannot be arbitrarily restricted, even for the fear of an infectious illness. California has already paid over $2 million in legal fees to other churches.
MacArthur said the money will help repay the church’s legal representation, the Thomas More Society.