For the first time, John MacArthur publicly admitted Sunday that COVID-19 infections spread through his Southern California congregation last winter, noting he and his wife fell ill to the virus in December.
MacArthur told church members ahead of his sermon that “many people contracted COVID” and “it probably went through our church in maybe December or January.” The pastor said he and his wife, Patricia, “enjoyed our own bout with COVID for about a week and a half.”
The preacher’s admission came amid news that Grace Community Church in Sun Valley received an $800,000 settlement from Los Angeles County after defying pandemic-induced health orders.
Jenna Ellis, the church’s attorney, tweeted about the settlement.
The church IS essential.
Our statement: pic.twitter.com/Rin5W7eA8x
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 31, 2021
Last year, when far-reaching government restrictions were put in place, the megachurch continued holding indoor worship services despite bans on such gatherings. MacArthur also refused to enforce mask and social distancing guidelines for congregants. He argued at the time that such mandates violated constitutionally protected religious liberties.
L.A. County has reportedly spent nearly $1 million in attorneys fees and other costs since the legal battle with Grace Community Church began.
“It appears … this lawsuit is going in our favor,” MacArthur said Sunday. “We’re deeply grateful for that. We’ve been getting those kind of signals for the last number of weeks.”
A year ago, when county officials were trying — for the fourth time — to obtain a court order to shutter Grace Community Church, MacArthur issued his own declaration against the county, which he argued was impeding on his congregation’s “free exercise of religion by criminalizing activity directly required by our faith.” He went on to state the church has “moral and religious obligations to continue allowing our congregants to gather in our sanctuary to worship the Lord.”
“The utter unnecessary deprivation of all our people by completely shutting down the mutual love and care that sustains our people in all the exigencies, pressures, and challenges of life was cruel,” he said. “And after 63 years of sacrificial kindness to our city, to be repeatedly threatened with court-ordered efforts to shut Grace Community Church down when no one is sick reveals an inexplicable preference for a mostly harmless virus over the life-enriching and necessary fellowship of the church.”
As for MacArthur’s own battle against COVID-19, the 82-year-old pastor was absent from the pulpit on Dec. 27, 2020. Staff Pastor Tom Patton delivered the sermon in MacArthur’s stead, telling churchgoers the senior minister was “resting.”
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