California megachurch holds massive services for 7,000 people in defiance of social distancing orders - and says it will sue state officials over 100-person cap on indoor gatherings

A megachurch in suburban Los Angeles which has defied public health orders to hold services with up to 7,000 worshipers has filed a lawsuit challenging California's 100-person limit on indoor church gatherings.
Grace Community Church in Sun Valley initially closed its doors in March with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in recent weeks it has flouted public health guidelines and allowed thousands into its congregation.
It initially had plans to formally reopen in May, but a federal court ruling upheld the state's ban on indoor religious services. Grace Community Church reopened in July.
'People started slowly coming back,' Pastor John MacArthur told CNN, 'and they just kept coming until there were six or seven thousand.' 
Pastor John MacArthur (pictured) and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit to challenge California's cap on church attendees
Pastor John MacArthur (pictured) and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit to challenge California's cap on church attendees

That is thousands more than California officials determined was safe when implementing a cap on attendance at places of worship.
The order, issued Jul 29, announced that gatherings at religious institutions cannot exceed 100 people or 25 per cent of the building's capacity.
'Places of worship must therefore discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower,' the guideline reads.
MacArthur explained to CNN that he viewed the restrictions set forth by the Gov. Gavin Newsom 'not constitutional,' 'burdensome' and declared they make 'no sense' in light of the actual numbers of death numbers his congregation has experienced.
Grace Community Church has hosted several church services that flout public health guidelines and see thousands of people seated
Grace Community Church has hosted several church services that flout public health guidelines and see thousands of people seated 
MacArthur said Grace Community Church (pictured) created additional viewing areas and placed tents for attendees, but they soon filled up
MacArthur said Grace Community Church (pictured) created additional viewing areas and placed tents for attendees, but they soon filled up
'We don't orchestrate this, this is a church. We don't ask people to make a reservation to come to church,' he said.
MacArthur said Grace Community Church, a non-denominational evangelical church built in 1956, originally tried to get creative with the growing crowd size for services.
They used a tents as overflow areas in the parking lot and placed a screen in the middle of the back patio, but MacArthur insisted both were overwhelmed by eager worshipers. 
MacArthur said he allowed thousands of Californians to come inside the church so they weren't 'standing outside in a mob.'
'We opened the doors because that's what we are,' he said. 'We're a church and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health and how that balance works for each one of them.
'Nobody's forcing anything, they're here because they want to be here.'
California mega church holds service with no COVID-19 precautions
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But photos and videos of Grace Community Church services in recent weeks show scores of people squeezed together inside the building with very few wearing face masks. 
In an interview on The Eric Mextaxes Radio Show, MacArthur said in July that 'essence of worship is being together' and his congregation 'didn't buy the narrative that they were threatening somebody's life if they went to church.'
When pressed about potentially infected worshipers arriving to the indoor services, McArthur said he's not going to 'add to the fear' because he doubts some of the reported cases.
'I'm not convinced that what's being propagated is actually reality,' he told CNN. 
'Neither are they. That's why they're here. I don't know of anybody in the church - and it's a large church - who's sick at this time. We haven't had anybody in our church in the hospital with it through all these months.'  
Los Angeles continued to lead the state in coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 211,542 infections and 509 deaths. 
Of those numbers, the community of Sun Valley, which is nestled in the San Fernando Valley, recorded 1,205 cases and 18 deaths.
MacArthur: 'We're a church and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health and how that balance works for each one of them'
MacArthur: 'We're a church and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health and how that balance works for each one of them'
California Gov. Gavin Newsom was among the officials listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles court this week
California Gov. Gavin Newsom was among the officials listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles court this week
California has become one of several states that have seen a concerning uptick in coronavirus cases and has been labeled a hot spot.
Just last month, Newsom was forced to re-implement some lockdown restrictions, including a re-ban on indoor activities at restaurants, bars, museums, zoos and entertainment spots. 
The Golden State has amassed 586,956 COVID-19 cases and a death toll of 10,648.   
Despite this, MacArthur has gone toe-to-toe with city officials and flouted public health guidelines as recently as Sunday.
'I'm so happy to welcome you to the Grace Community Church peaceful protest,' MacArthur told the pulpit as they cheered.  
And now, he's taken the fight to the court system and filed a lawsuit against several city officials.  

Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sheriff Alejandro Villanueva and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer were among them.
'Grace Community Church has continued permitting its members to worship,' the lawsuit read. 'It intends to do so.'
In July, attorneys with Los Angeles County issued a cease and desist order to Grace Community Church threatening arrest or a daily fine of $1,000 if they continued to hold indoor services. 
MacArthur and Grace Community Church will be represented by Charles Limandri and Jenna Ellis, two attorneys who have much experience with religious court cases.
Limandri was known for fighting the ACLU over removal of the Mount Soledad Cross in California, while Ellis is a senior legal adviser for President Trump's 2020 campaign. 
What makes MacArthur's refusal to abide public health guidelines so noticeable is his status as a popular and well-respected evangelical pastor. 
Most of the pastors who've made national headlines for ignoring state orders were from small towns or small congregations. Many of them have argued the lockdown restrictions infringed on their religious and spiritual rights.  
MacArthur's influence extends past the pulpit into online sermons, books, biblical commentaries and his radio show 'Grace to You.'
MacArthur (pictured) called the public health guidelines implemented onto places of worship as 'not constitutional' and 'burdensome'
MacArthur (pictured) called the public health guidelines implemented onto places of worship as 'not constitutional' and 'burdensome'
In fact, Grace to You pulls in around $20million every year in cash donations.
'I’m praying for and thankful for Dr. John MacArthur & other pastors across the country who are facing government encroachment on the fundamental rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly,' said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.  
But not all pastors and congregations feel the same way as MacArthur about the restrictions.
JD Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions, suggested congregations create smaller house churches instead of packed services.
Andy Stanley said his megachurch in Atlanta, Georgia, would not reopen until 2021 because of the pandemic.
MacArthur questioned if those pastors were leading their congregations correctly.
'They don't know what a church is and they don't shepherd their people,' he told CNN.
Others Christians have noted that spirituality and church are more than just services held every Sunday.
'It's true that MacArthur's church cannot meet, but Christ's church can meet,' wrote Jonathan Leeman, a pastor and editorial director of the ministry 9Marks
'Right now, members of his church can meet outdoors. There is nothing sacrosanct about the particular and present forms of our congregations,'Leeman added.
Some have pointed out the churches must abide by fire codes that limit maximum capacity, so doing the same for the coronavirus pandemic is not so different.
President of Davenant Institute Brad Littlejohn published a rebuttal to MacArthur's decision in a 7,500-word letter this month.
'Rev. MacArthur no doubt believes he is taking a courageous stand,' wrote Littlejohn.
'I fear that he is rather a confused shepherd, leading countless sheep straight into the line of fire.'  
California megachurch holds massive services for 7,000 people in defiance of social distancing orders - and says it will sue state officials over 100-person cap on indoor gatherings California megachurch holds massive services for 7,000 people in defiance of social distancing orders - and says it will sue state officials over 100-person cap on indoor gatherings Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 03:37 Rating: 5

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