After the Los Angeles Times ran a headline calling three cases of COVID-19 tied to Grace Community Church an "outbreak," the church's attorney struck back in a statement, panning the wording as "grossly misleading."
A Thursday article by the newspaper ran under the headline "Coronavirus outbreak strikes L.A. megachurch that defied public health orders." More than 7,000 people attend the church led by John MacArthur, which has been meeting indoors for months despite official orders against indoor religious services in the county.
"Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news," attorney Jenna Ellis said in the statement.
She added that the number of people diagnosed amounts to less than 1% of the church congregation, which does not constitute an outbreak.
"It has never been the Church's position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season," Ellis also said.
Houses of worship in Los Angeles County are required to report when three or more cases have been diagnosed in the church within a span of 14 days. Los Angeles County and Grace Community Church have been engaged in a legal battle since August over the church's continued indoor meetings. MacArthur has publicly expressed skepticism over the legitimacy of the coronavirus as a pandemic, and stated that the church will follow God's leadership, not the government's, on deciding when to meet in person.