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UPDATE: Appeals Court Overrules Judge's Decision in California Church Case, Church Meets for Sunday Services Anyway

08-17-2020
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ABOVE: Conservative commentator and radio host Todd Starnes tells CBN News this case should be a warning for Christians across America.

The legal battle continues for Pastor John MacArthur and his Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. 

The Los Angeles Health Department filed the last-minute appeal following Friday's Superior Court ruling in favor of MacArthur's church.

The California Court of Appeals issued a stay of the judge's order late Saturday. But the megachurch met for in-person worship services on Sunday anyway, despite the appeals court ruling against the church.

MacArthur said they were meeting in obedience to God's word which tells Christians to assemble together and worship.

"They don't want us to meet, that's obvious," MacArthur said from the pulpit. "They're not willing to work with us. They just want to shut us down. But we're here to bring honor to the Lord."

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As CBN News reported, MacArthur filed a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials over ongoing restrictions for churches amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to suing Newsom, Grace Community Church has also named Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).

In the filing, submitted Thursday by attorneys Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri, Grace Community Church has sought "to prohibit California from enforcing its unconstitutional and onerous Coronavirus pandemic regulations" against the congregation.

The lawsuit pointed to the double standard that has been applied to Black Lives Matter protesters, who have been allowed and even encouraged to flood the streets by the thousands while churches have been forced to keep their sanctuaries closed over concerns worship services could cause spikes in Coronavirus infections.

MacArthur, who has served as the church's pastor for more than 50 years, and the church's eldership posted a statement about their lawsuit on the church's website

"When any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom, which is the church. His rule is mediated to local churches through those pastors and elders who teach His Word (Matthew 16:18–19; 2 Timothy 3:16–4:2)," the statement reads. 

"Therefore, in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services," the statement continues. 

On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant turned down the Los Angeles Health Department's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the church from worshipping.

The congregation said it would wear masks and social distance between family groups while indoors.  

The appeals court then ruled that the dangers of COVID-19 namely “serious illness and death” outweigh the right to hold church services, 

A full hearing in the case is set for Sept. 4. 

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