- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2020

Los Angeles County has canceled a lease on a large portion of the Grace Community Church parking lot amid a legal fight over the megachurch’s refusal to abide by a public-health ban on indoor worship.

The Department of Public Works informed the Sun Valley church in a Friday notice that the lease on the property, which Grace has held continuously since 1975, would be terminated in 30 days, and warned that any improvements or personal property would be confiscated after Oct. 1.

Jenna Ellis, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which represents the church, accused the county of punishing Grace for challenging the county’s prohibition on indoor worship, enacted to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Los Angeles County is retaliating against Grace Community Church for simply exercising their constitutionally protected right to hold church and challenging an unreasonable, unlawful health order,” said Ms. Ellis in a statement.

She added: “This is harassment, abusive, and unconscionable.”

The county, now locked in a legal battle with the church, has been thwarted four times in its effort to obtain court orders to force the church to stop the indoor services, which Grace Pastor John MacArthur has held weekly since July 26.

Ms. Ellis said that the church “has peacefully held this lease for 45 years and the only reason the County is attempting eviction is because John MacArthur stood up to their unconstitutional power grab.”

“In America, we have a judicial system to ensure that the executive branch does not abuse its power, and Grace Community Church has every right to be heard without fear of reprisal,” she said.

A full court hearing on the legal dispute is scheduled for Sept. 4.

In a statement last week, the county said that the health-officer order “prohibiting indoor gatherings, such as protests and religious services, remains valid and in effect.”

“The Department of Public Health continues to ask residents to do their part and, when attending religious services please stay outdoors, wear a mask and practice social distancing,” said the county. “Together we can beat the spread of this deadly virus.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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