Amid an intense court battle between John MacArthur and Los Angeles County for the Church’s constitutionally protected right to assemble for in-person worship, the L.A. Times has published a misleading article falsely claiming that the Church has been “struck with an outbreak of the coronavirus.”
In their article, “Coronavirus outbreak strikes L.A. megachurch that defied public health orders,” the paper smeared the Church as a superspreader for pushing back against the unconstitutional lockdown order by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Issued back in July, Newsom ordered the closure of churches in 30 counties, including L.A. County, where Grace Community church has resided for over 60 years.
The “outbreak” spoken of by L.A. Times consisted of 3 worshipers out of a congregation of 7000. The newspaper in the same vain claim “3” is the minimum number of cases before public health orders require the Church to report the cases, “so the agency can determine whether there is an outbreak.” Although the public health release they appear to be referring to was discussing requirements in a “workplace,” not a church and congregation.
In a statement provided to Harbingers Daily, Jenna Ellis, attorney for John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, explained that “three very mild positive tests among more than 7000 people is hardly news”:
“0.0004 or 0.043% is not an ‘outbreak,'” she continued. “The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader. It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that L.A. County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.”
Turning their attack directly toward Pastor MacArthur, LA Times also claimed: “Pastor John MacArthur has repeatedly told the congregation that no one from the church has gotten sick with COVID-19”. This, however, is entirely false.
Just earlier this month, MacArthur spoke at a Family Research council’s “Freedom Sunday,” an event that urged pastors to open up their churches. During his address, he told the audience that there had been past cases, but that did not mean the Church, which shares the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, should close their doors.
“We’ve been open for a couple of months now, and we’re packed out everywhere. We have never had anyone that we know of in the hospital; certainly, no one has died, and we don’t currently have any known cases of covid. There were a couple of folks in the past, in the early part of the virus, that had some sickness, but recently, we haven’t had any indication of that at all,” MacArthur explained. “We feel that this is what needs to happen in a time like this. Church needs to be open. We’re not going to kill people by being open. We may save them from a fate worse than death, and that is eternal judgment in hell by giving them the Gospel and of all times to be open and of all times to be proclaiming the truth. This is the most critical time.” [emphasis added]
The article from the L.A. Times then blasted the Pastor for not screening worshipers, social distancing, or requiring masks, blaming the Church for their vast outbreak of 3 out of 7000 congregants.
The LA Times quoted officials from the County, who have relentlessly attacked MacArthur and Grace Community Church, saying in a, frankly, laughable statement:
“The county went to court only after significant efforts to work with the leaders of Grace Community Church to protect the health of congregants and the surrounding community proved unsuccessful.”
The L.A. County did not seem so passive, however, when they threatened the Church and Pastor with daily fines and imprisonment. Nor did the longsuffering County appear very fair when they unsuccessfully attempted to evict the Church from a significant portion of their parking lots.
The initial harassment by the County prompted the Thomas More Society on behalf of John MacArthur and Grace Community Church to announce August 13th, their filing of a lawsuit against the state of California. The suit sought to “prohibit California from enforcing its unconstitutional and onerous coronavirus pandemic regulations against Grace Community Church” as well as “a judgment that the health orders violate the California Constitution.”
Then came several attempts by the County to close the doors of Grace Community Church by Court order, then subsequently contempt of Court for non-compliance, which the Church continues to fight.
There has also been a clear double standard, as covid safety has not been so vehemently enforced on many secular establishments or on protesters.
In a recent video released by John MacArthur, the Pastor explained, “today’s current crop of politicians are trampling on the Constitution and on the resolve of citizens to demand their rights under the pressure of a manufactured fear.”
“The reality is that the COVID data just doesn’t match the government’s COVID narrative. You have a 99.99% chance to survive COVID. It’s just not what they’re saying it is,” he asserted. “That absolutely does not warrant shutting down anything,” MacArthur continued. “But especially, absurdly and arbitrarily, churches that have a special protection from the Constitution. Oh, and at the same time, leaving open abortion clinics, strip clubs, and marijuana dispensaries.”