Above: Another California church is defying COVID-19 orders and holding in-person worship services inside their church building.
Another California church is defying a judge's restraining order and holding services inside the church building. According to Fox News, Pastor Rob McCoy of Ventura County's Godspeak Calvary Chapel held morning services this past Sunday despite the order aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. For him, it's come down to a question of religious liberty.
"I'm seeing a room full of people who realize that liberty is not man's idea, it's God's idea," McCoy said during the service. "And you'll be ridiculed and you'll be maligned, but you're doing it for those who ridicule and malign you."
McCoy told local Fox11 that he has not held services outside because of a staff member's sun allergies and the fact that there's not an outdoor space near enough to the church or large enough to do so.
"Lord, we're not here to endanger our community," McCoy prayed during the first service, seen here on a live stream of the gathering. "We're here because the church is essential."
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Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco's order banning the church's in-person services in support of Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest mandate will be in place until another hearing is held on Aug. 21, according to US News and World Report.
Police did not appear to try to enforce the ban during any of the three services on Sunday.
McCoy is part of a number of California pastors who complied for months with orders that put church services on the list of "nonessential" meetings and businesses, even while they saw other groups, including violent protesters and looters, allowed to gather with impunity.
"We've been essential for 2,000 years," Pastor Ché Ahn of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California told The Federalist. Members there began holding in-person services in July, and are suing the state for the right to continue assembling.
Edicts from the governor proscribe how services should be conducted, outside with masks and social distancing, and even forbidding congregational singing as part of worship.
But with some 8,700 COVID deaths in a population of 40 million, many pastors and congregants simply are not buying the narrative anymore.
Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, located in Sun Valley near Los Angeles, is one of those pastors.
"So in California, you have a 99.99% chance to survive COVID," MacArthur said. "So why would you shut down the entire state, and particularly when people are frightened, and sometimes, terrified that they're going to die, shut down the church, where most of the intense relationships in our society exist?"
"We've had 21 weeks with no ministry to a thousand little children, to a thousand university students, to junior high students, high school students, senior adults," he continued. "We've had no funerals, no weddings. I can't go to the hospital. I've had to go on the phone to talk to dying people at the hospital."
According to an earlier CBN News report, MacArthur told Fox News host Tucker Carlson he started preaching once again to an empty auditorium. Without making any major announcements, congregants just began returning to the church for services.
Many of his attendees "didn't buy the narrative," he said. Recently, there were 3,000 people gathered at Grace Community Church, where "they didn't wear masks" because they "understand the reality of it."
Gov. Newsom has said his mandates may last till a vaccine or cure is found for the virus, which could be months, even years, down the road.
Thomas More Society Attorney Jenna Ellis is one of the lawyers representing MacArthur's church. She told CBN's Newswatch she's hoping that the state of California will simply back off and allow the churches to carry out their mission without further lawsuits or curtailment of their activities.
"You've seen governors in states think that they're the arbiters of what is and is not an essential business or service or church," Ellis added. "And they don't have that authority. Now in the very beginning, churches – even like Pastor MacArthur's – were willing for a very brief and limited time to close their doors and comply with orders. We want to be good citizens. But as this pandemic continues, it's unreasonable and frankly unwarranted to say that a church would need to close its doors for up to a year like some are already volunteering."
Pastor McCoy first reopened for services on Palm Sunday, asking people to wear masks and to social distance. But with Newsom's latest mandate, indoor services in his county were forbidden. McCoy says he knows he could face a citation or more for defying the court order. What will come of that possibly won't be known til the next hearing in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, McCoy's decision is firm.
"I wish it didn't have to come to this, I really do, but we will be violating the judge's order," McCoy told the Ventura County Star.