“California has no such power to determine whether churches are ‘essential,’ as the federal and state constitutions have already done so,” argued the lawsuit, in part. “Grace Community Church provides a spiritual service to the Los Angeles community that its congregation and its members rightly believe is essential, and the California State Constitution specifically protects their fundamental rights in this context.”
The state of California and Los Angeles have agreed to pay $800,000 in legal fees to settle their lawsuit with John MacArthur’s church over COVID-19 lockdown rules.
MacArthur’s Grace Community Church of Sun Valley had been involved in months of legal battles with state and local officials over his refusal to adhere to ongoing lockdown restrictions.
Jenna Ellis of the Thomas More Society, who helped to represent the church, posted a statement on Twitter Tuesday celebrating the $800,000 settlement.
“We are very pleased to see Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s First Amendment protections fully vindicated in this case,” read the statement.
“It has been a hard-fought battle to preserve religious liberty and we hope that this result will encourage Californians, and all Americans, to continue to stand firm that church is essential.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to the settlement (its amount being $400,000) due in part to recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that overturned various public health measures in response to COVID-19 that specifically targeted houses of worship.
“After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some public health safety measures could not apply to houses of worship, resolving this litigation is the responsible and appropriate thing to do,” stated the county’s counsel, as quoted by the Los Angeles Daily News.
“From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles County has been committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents. We are grateful to the county’s faith organizations for their continued partnership to keep their congregants and the entire community safe and protected from COVID-19.”
Last August, MacArthur and his church sued California over its ongoing ban on indoor worship services in response to the coronavirus.
Although Grace Community Church had initially adhered to the state lockdown rules, they returned to in-person worships in defiance of the state’s ongoing public health orders.