Officials in Los Angeles County have sent Pastor John MacArthur a letter threatening fines and possible arrest if he continues to hold in-person church services in defiance of California Gov. Gavin Newsom's lockdown order.
On July 26, Grace Community Church held its first in-person service since the coronavirus hit the U.S. In his sermon that day, MacArthur described the church's obligation to "obey God rather than men."
Under Newsom's order, indoor church services are currently prohibited in a majority of the state's counties, where people are also banned from singing at church services. California is currently experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases. Last Friday, 215 deaths from the illness were recorded.
Reverend Franklin Graham described the threats against MacArthur and Grace Community Church in a Facebook post on Saturday, encouraging believers in Southern California to attend the church's services that weekend.
MacArthur also addressed the cointroversy in a video message posted online last Friday.
"We will obey God rather than men," MacArthur said in the video. "We're going to be faithful to the Lord and we're going to leave the results to Him. Whatever happens is going to be what He allows to happen. But He will be on our side because we will be obedient and faithful to His word."
In a statement to Religion News Service, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it "is investigating and will be reaching out to the church leaders to let them know they need to comply with the Health Officer Order."
Grace Community Church is accommodating people who want to sit outside the church for services, with about 1,000 chairs set up outdoors during Sunday services. It also is providing masks and hand sanitizer for people who want them.