Saturday, the California Court of Appeal set aside a lower court order that would have allowed indoor services to take place at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley.
The Court of Appeal’s decision temporarily upholds the County’s Health Officer Orders prohibiting indoor worship services. The court ordered the church to provide a formal response to the County’s petition by Aug. 25. A full hearing on the matter is scheduled for Sept. 4.
“As between the harm that flows from the heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19 (namely “serious illness and death”) and the harm that flows from having to conduct religious services outdoors instead of indoors, the balance at this early stage favors issuance of a stay,” the court said in its ruling.
Los Angeles County issued the following statement on Saturday’s decision:
“Los Angeles County is pleased that the California Court of Appeal recognizes the vital importance of our Health Officer Orders in protecting the lives and health of our residents as we work to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
“We will continue to work closely with all religious institutions, including Grace Community Church, to make sure their congregants are protected and provided with accurate information about worshiping safely during this phase of the pandemic.
“Outdoor religious observances are permitted; participants must wear cloth face coverings and maintain six feet of distance from each other unless they live in the same household.
“The County is grateful to all residents and institutions for coming together to take the actions that will continue to move us forward, as a community, through our recovery.”
Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit against Grace Community Church after the church held indoor worship services on July 26 and Aug. 2. In response, the church filed its own suit alleging that regulations are not equally applied by Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Despite the appellate court’s ruling allowing public health officials to enforce its ban on indoor religious services, Grace Community Church once again held indoor services on Sunday. Outdoor seating was provided as an option for congregants.
“We’re not meeting because we want to be rebellious,” said Pastor John MacArthur. “We’re meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and worship him.”
The church’s defiance of health officer orders could result in citations, L.A. County said.