LA Court Rules Against Church’s Rights To Hold Worship Services

(FreedomJournal.org)- Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church lost their fight in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The court ruled against them last week, issuing a preliminary injunction for an order that prohibits Grace from “conducting, participating in or attending indoor worship services.” It also puts a ban on worship outdoors unless certain restrictions are followed.

The ruling doesn’t follow the state or U.S. “constitutional standard of review.” Lawyers from the Thomas More Society said the judge in the case didn’t consider the argument of separation of powers “in any meaningful fashion,” as he “ducked the issue.”

Charles LiMandri, a special counsel for the organization, said:

“We are disappointed in the ruling on the preliminary injunction as the court did not apply the strict scrutiny analysis to the government order that we believe is required by the California Constitution and legal precedent. The court also did not properly consider the medical and scientific evidence that the current number of people with serious COVID-19 symptoms no longer justifies a shuttering of the churches.

“Nor do we believe that the court gave adequate consideration to the fact that churches have been treated as second-class citizens compared to the tens of thousands of protestors. More than ever, California’s churches are essential. Therefore, we plan to appeal this ruling to ultimately vindicate our clients’ constitutionally-protected right to free exercise of religion.”

In his decision, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff wrote:

“Evidence demonstrates the County Health Order and its stated purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19 has a real and substantial relationship to public health … The County Health Order bears a rational relationship to that governmental interest in limiting the spread of a communicable disease.”

MacArthur vehemently disagreed, saying:

“in an inexplicable ruling, the judge said the ‘scale tipped in favor of the county.’ 1/100th of 1% of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all? That is not what our founders said. Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government — including the judicial branch — is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches.”

The Thomas More Society said they would continue the fight in court, even after this recent ruling was not in their favor. As Jenna Ellis, a special counsel for the society, said:

“Although this is a temporary setback, we will continue to fight for Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s constitutionally-protected right to hold church. While the judge did go out of his way to repeatedly state that he is not ruling on the merits, only a ruling at this very preliminary stage, Pastor MacArthur is still harmed because he has every right to hold church.

“Church is essential, and no government agent has the runaway, unlimited power to force churches to close indefinitely. The County’s argument was basically ‘because we can,’ which is the very definition of tyranny.

“Without limiting government’s power in favor of freedom and protected rights, we have no liberty. We will fight for religious freedom, as our founders did when they wrote the First Amendment.”