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Sun Valley church defies court order, holding indoor services without masks or physical distancing

Pastor John MacArthur held an indoor worship service in Grace Community Church’s sanctuary on Sunday, Aug. 16, in defiance of a court order, further intensifying its nationally watched battle over coronavirus restrictions.

Last week, the church and Los Angeles County filed dueling lawsuits. The church wanted to maintain its right to gather as a congregation, indoors. The county sought a restraining order against the church to stop it from congregating indoors. On Friday, Aug. 14, a trial court judge ruled that the congregation could gather indoors but with masks and physical distancing, until the litigation is resolved.

However, late Saturday, at the county’s request, the California Second District Court of Appeal issued an emergency order overturning the trial court decision. The ruling said Grace Community Church could hold outdoor services, but not meet indoors because the risk of virus transmission outweighs the inconvenience of having to conduct services outdoors.

But MacArthur and his church carried on as usual Sunday morning.

CBS Los Angeles broadcast video of congregants pouring into the sanctuary with few wearing masks. The webcast of the 90-minute service did not once show the audience. But the congregants were certainly heard as they offered thunderous applause and cheers of “I love you” to their pastor as he took the pulpit Sunday morning. The livestream of the 10:30 a.m. service showed singers, instrumentalists and even a children’s choir performing.

“We are having church,” the pastor stated as congregants applauded. “We’re not meeting because we want to be rebellious. We are meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and worship him.”

MacArthur said the county has not been willing to work with the Sun Valley church.

“They don’t want us to meet, that’s obvious,” the preacher said. “They just want to shut us down.”

He welcomed congregants to the service.

“The good news is you’re here,” MacArthur said. “You’re not distancing and you’re not wearing masks. It’s also good news that you’re outside because it’s very hot out there. So the Lord knew you had to be inside and unmasked. He did us that gracious favor.”

County officials said they will “continue to engage with the church and provide educational and practical guidance on safely conducting services outdoors, as required by the Health Officer Orders.”

In addition, the county is looking at “all enforcement options” including further court action as early as this week, officials said.

Source: Orange County Register

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