- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2020

A church in Los Angeles flaunting pandemic restrictions to hold indoor services sued Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday, alleging violation of constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

Grace Community Church and pastor John MacArthur were warned in a late July letter from local officials that each day of indoor worship was a violation of state law punishable by a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail.

No further punitive action has been taken against the church, but the congregation decided to argue its case in court.   

“Grace Community Church has continued permitting its members to worship,” reads the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County court. “It intends to do so.”

In July, Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, signed an executive order imposing pandemic restrictions but allowing for counties to reopen businesses and religious services when COVID-19 levels flatten. On Wednesday, 58 new COVID-19-related deaths were reported in L.A. County, which remains one of over 30 counties on the state’s monitoring list.

In an email on Wednesday night to The Washington Times, a Los Angeles Department of Public Health spokesperson declined to comment specifically on Grace Community Church’s protest, saying it preferred to work through “education” in gaining compliance with pandemic-related regulations.

“One thing is certain,” wrote the spokesperson, “our community will not be able to enforce our way out of this pandemic; we need everyone doing their part to keep themselves and each other safe.”

In the lawsuit, the church is being represented by religious freedom law specialists, including Charles LiMandri, who has filed in support of protecting “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Jenna Ellis, special counsel with religious liberty law firm Thomas More Society and a senior legal advisor to President Trump’s reelection campaign.

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