Los Angeles County has issued $20,000 in fines to Grace Community Church and its pastor, John MacArthur, for holding indoor church services.
The county says the services were held in violation of California's coronavirus lockdown orders, which prohibit indoor religious gatherings in most of the state's counties. Grace Community Church filed a lawsuit August 12 against Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other public officials over the shutdown order against churches.
The church's attorney, Jenna Ellis of the Thomas More Society, says the state is treating other gatherings, including recent protests, differently than it treats churches.
"California's edicts demanding an indefinite shutdown have gone now far past rational or reasonable and are firmly in the territory of tyranny and discrimination," Ellis said recently. "This isn't about health. It's about blatantly targeting churches."
On August 14, a judge ruled the church could hold indoor services, as long as attendees wore masks and practiced social distancing. But an appeals court overruled that order late Saturday night. The church held an indoor service anyway.
"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," Ellis said in response to the contempt order and fines.
A county press release on the matter criticized the church's decision "to hold large, indoor services that dramatically increase the potential for COVID-19 transmission," noting that some other churches are holding their services outside in order to comply with the mandate.
"Los Angeles County reluctantly, and as a last resort, has turned to the courts to obtain compliance because, unfortunately, indoor services at the church have continued," the release read.