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California pays up for church lockdowns

John MacArthur’s church joins list of those that won legal fees


John MacArthur preaches on Sunday at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. Facebook/Julie Roys

California pays up for church lockdowns

California and Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday agreed to pay John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church a combined total of $800,000 in legal fees the church incurred while contesting pandemic shut down orders. The agreement brings to an end over a year of litigation.

When authorities first imposed COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020, the church initially complied, moving worship outdoors and online. But things escalated rapidly after the church resumed meeting indoors in July 2020. The county issued a cease-and-desist letter threatening fines and imprisonment, and the church filed a lawsuit claiming discriminatory treatment. Meanwhile, the church never stopped meeting indoors even as legal wrangling continued.

A Supreme Court ruling in February took the wind out of the case. In a pair of 6-3 rulings, the court struck down the complete ban on indoor worship that applied in most California counties. Conservative justices accepted an argument similar to that of MacArthur’s attorneys: The state could not treat businesses more favorably than it treated places of worship. The state retained a 25 percent capacity limit on both. Then, in April, the state removed all capacity restrictions on indoor worship and on businesses on June 15.

MacArthur credited the Lord for protecting the church: “Over the past year, our congregation has seen his hand of blessing in ways like never before, and the Lords promise has been realized: I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

State and local authorities on Friday also announced settlements with two other California churches. Attorneys for Cross Culture Christian Center of Lodi and Cornerstone Church of Fresno said the state will pay $400,000 and San Joaquin County $100,000 for attorneys’ fees two churches incurred fighting lockdown orders.

Earlier this summer, the state settled up with two other churches over the gathering ban. On June 2, the state agreed to pay San Diego-area South Bay United Pentecostal Church legal fees of $1.6 million and Bakersfield Catholic priest Fr. Trevor Burfitt $550,000 in legal fees, KTLA-TV reported.

MacArthur at times minimized the danger of the coronavirus. But he recently revealed during an Aug. 29 sermon that he, his wife, and “many people” in the church contracted the virus late last year, though he maintained there was no evidence to trace it back to the church.


Steve West

Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C.

@slntplanet

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RCRE8109

Bottom line, the arrogance of leadership on both sides cost the taxpayers and only the attorneys really won.