Pastor John MacArthur & Grace Community Church Sue State of California

Pastor John MacArthur & Grace Community Church
Pastor John MacArthur & Grace Community Church (Photo: Harbingers Daily)

The Thomas More Society on behalf of Pastor John MacArthur & Grace Community Church has filed a lawsuit to the supreme court of California County of Los Angeles against the California Governor, Attorney General, Mayor of Los Angeles and other public health officials.

On July 13th, California Governor Gavin Newsom order churches in 30 counties, including Los Angeles County, to cease their services and close their doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The order resulted in many Churches refusing to comply with the order out of obedience with God’s Word, which calls for Christians expressly to not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together.”

Grace Community Church and John MacArthur released a statement July 24th following the order explaining their Biblical responsibility to keep their doors open and explaining that their civic leaders ‘have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction’:

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 16:18–192 Timothy 3:16–4:2).

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.

At the beginning of August, Grace Community Church received a cease-and-desist letter from the city, specifically targeted at MacArthur, threatening a daily fine or arrest if the church does not comply.

“Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community church are not disobeying the Constitution; it is California’s Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that are defying their constitutional obligation to protect religious freedom and church assembly,” Jenna Ellis, a constitutional law attorney representing the church, said in response to the letter. “Our American system of government specifically recognizes that our individual, fundamental right to free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly is a pre-political, God-given, inalienable right. That right is not given by the government or the Constitution, but rather, government is mandated by the Constitution to preserve and protect it for the church. Grace Community Church has every right to assemble without impossible and unreasonable infringement from the state, and the state has absolutely no power to impose the restrictions it is demanding. Church is essential, and the government has no power to arbitrate whether religious organizations are essential. This is not about health and safety; it is about targeting churches.”

“It is unconstitutional for Governor Newsom and the State of California to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment,” explained Charles LiMandri, who is also representing the church. “Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference. This is especially the case when the government has given free rein to protestors, and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories, and abortion providers. The government orders are also unconstitutional because there is no compelling need for the onerous restrictions on the churches at this time. The hospitals are not overwhelmed and the percentage death rate from COVID-19 is now extremely small. It is time for Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti to recognize what President Trump has already proclaimed: churches are providing an ‘essential’ service to the people. Therefore, they must be allowed to serve the people in the manner in which God has called them.”

The Thomas More Society announced in a press release Thursday that Special Counsel Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri have filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of California County of Los Angeles on behalf of John MacArthur and Grace Community Church that “seeks to prohibit California from enforcing its unconstitutional and onerous coronavirus pandemic regulations against Grace Community Church and seeks a judgment that the health orders violate the California Constitution.” [Read the full press release below]


Press release from the Thomas More Society:


(August 13, 2020 – Los Angeles, California) Thomas More Society Special Counsel Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri filed suit in the Superior Court of the State of California County of Los Angeles on behalf of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church against Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other California and Los Angeles County public health officials.

The suit seeks to prohibit California from enforcing its unconstitutional and onerous coronavirus pandemic regulations against Grace Community Church and seeks a judgment that the health orders violate the California Constitution.

The complaint states that the American people have begun to see that they are being cheated by their own government. “They have witnessed how the onerous restrictions imposed on them by public officials to allegedly fight the COVID-19 pandemic simply do not apply to certain, favored groups. When many went to the streets to engage in ‘political protests’ against ‘racism’ and ‘police brutality,’ these protestors refused to comply with the pandemic restrictions. Instead of enforcing the public health orders, public officials were all too eager to grant a de facto exception for these favored protestors.”

“Having irreparably damaged the confidence of Americans – and Californians especially – who now realize that the pandemic restrictions are neither necessary nor good, on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Grace Community Church decided to resume worship services—joining millions of Americans in deciding that enough is enough. With deaths from the ‘COVID-19 suicide pandemic’ exceeding those from the actual coronavirus pandemic, Grace Community Church decided that it would no longer sit by and watch its congregants and their children suffer from an absence of religious worship and instruction. Perhaps unsurprisingly – perhaps not – this led the County of Los Angeles to submit a demand letter to Grace Community Church, ordering it to comply with the restrictions that Los Angeles County deems unnecessary to enforce against so many others. Grace Community Church does not intend to comply.”

According to attorneys for the church it is time for California to recognize that Christians  are not second-class citizens, and the court must step in to do its job applying the protections the U.S. and California State Constitutions provide to every individual equally and to churches in particular.

Pastor MacArthur opened the Sunday morning service on August 9, welcoming worshippers to “the Grace Community Church peaceful protest.” He was met with a standing ovation and extended applause from the congregation. Pastor MacArthur said of the lawsuit, “We are simply continuing to do today what we have done for the past 63 years that Grace Community Church has been open to welcome the Los Angeles community and serve their spiritual needs. We will remain open and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who decide they want to come worship with us.”

Ellis said, “We hoped that Los Angeles County would see its error on its own, but after attempted negotiations with their counsel, California is still intent on targeting churches—specifically, Grace Community Church. Pastor MacArthur and the Board of Elders will stand firm in their leadership and resolve that church is essential, and California has no legitimate power to enforce such onerous and unconstitutional restrictions against the fundamentally protected right to freely participate in church. After Grace Community Church voluntarily complied with state orders for nearly six months, California’s edicts demanding an indefinite shut down have gone now far past rational or reasonable and are firmly in the territory of tyranny and discrimination. This isn’t about health. It’s about blatantly targeting churches.”

LiMandri stated, “It is unconstitutional for Governor Newsom and the State of California to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment. Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference. This is especially the case when the government has given free rein to protestors, and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories, and abortion providers. The government orders are also unconstitutional because there is no compelling need for the onerous restrictions on the churches at this time. The hospitals are not overwhelmed and the percentage death rate from COVID-19 is now extremely small. It is time for Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti to recognize what President Trump has already proclaimed: Churches are providing an ‘essential’ service to the people. Therefore, they must be allowed to serve the people in the manner in which God has called them.”

Read the Thomas More Society’s Complaint filed with the Superior Court for the State of California County of Los Angeles – in Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur v. Gavin Newsome et al., on August 12, 2020, here [https://drive.google.com/file/d/11z-KS5hWQfFtgFZqZ8h7BVRFBysiiBs6/view?usp=drivesdk].

Read the Demand Letter sent to Pastor John MacArthur by attorney Jason Tokoro, representing the County of Los Angeles in California, on July 29, 2020, here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Ex.-5-1_Cease-and-Desist-Letter.pdf]