The Thomas More Society announced on Wednesday that nationally renowned attorneys Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri will represent Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church as Special Counsel as the City of Los Angeles, through a cease and desist letter, has threatened the church and Pastor MacArthur specifically with a daily fine of $1000 or arrest for opening their church in defiance of a state order to cease all indoor worship services.
Full press release from the Thomas More Society:
The Thomas More Society announces that nationally renowned attorneys Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri will represent Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California, as Special Counsel.
Grace Community Church, its Elder Board, and Pastor MacArthur have been the target of unconstitutional religious discrimination by the City of Los Angeles and the State of California, amid the state's order to cease in-person church assembly indefinitely. Grace Community Church and Pastor MacArthur, known worldwide for their ministry and seminary, have enjoyed an impeccable 63-year history of serving the Los Angeles community in person and having a reputation for good citizenship and deference to legitimate state authority.
However, the State of California is using COVID-19 as a pretext to attempt to force churches to close indefinitely. This illegitimate, over-broad, and unconstitutional order to indefinitely cease assembling, and exercising their religion and sincerely held religious beliefs, forced Grace Community Church to defy the order and continue exercising their rights, seeking shelter in the guaranteed religious freedom protections of the United States and California constitutions. By unanimous vote of the Elder Board, led by Pastor MacArthur, Grace Community Church issued a statement on July 24, 2020, explaining their decision.
The statement reads in part: "Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings – sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles. As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore, we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord's clear commands."
Pastor MacArthur said, "This is not the first time we as Christ's church have stood for Truth. We will continue to stand firm for the Truth today like we have every prior day in our 63-year history and as the biblical New Testament Church has done for more than 2000 years. We stand firm to continue fulfilling our biblical mandate from Christ to proclaim the Gospel and assemble together, and I earnestly hope that our stance will encourage other pastors, churches, and the general public across America and the world to also stand firm for biblical Truth. Church is essential."
The City of Los Angeles, through a cease and desist letter, has threatened Grace Community Church and Pastor MacArthur specifically with a daily fine of $1000 or arrest.
"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," said Ellis. "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."
LiMandri 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. Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference. This is especially the case when the government has given free rein to protestors, and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories, and abortion providers. The government orders are also unconstitutional because there is no compelling need for the onerous restrictions on the churches at this time. The hospitals are not overwhelmed and the percentage death rate from COVID-19 is now extremely small. 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."
About the attorneys:
Jenna Ellis is a constitutional law attorney, Senior Fellow at the Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty, and an allied attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom. She is the senior legal adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign, private counsel to President Donald Trump, and served on his legal team for the 2020 impeachment trial. She regularly contributes to national media on television and print as a legal analyst. She is the author of The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution. Ellis holds a B.A. in journalism and a J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law.
Charles LiMandri is a constitutional law attorney, religious freedom expert, and Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society. He began the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund in 2012 and has litigated high-profile cases in California for decades, including the ACLU's effort to remove the Mount Soledad Cross and San Diego's effort to force firefighters to participate in a gay pride parade against their sincerely held religious beliefs. LiMandri holds a J.D. from Georgetown University and he is double board-certified in Pre-Trial Practice and Trial Advocacy.