A Los Angeles County church wins legal fight to hold indoor services
A Los Angeles County church can hold indoor services if attendees wear masks and stay at least six feet apart, a judge has ruled.
Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Alarcon issued his decision Friday after hearing arguments in Los Angeles County’s bid for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church in Sun Valley.
The church and county filed dueling lawsuits this week over health orders requiring that houses of worship not hold indoor services during the coronavirus crisis.
Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur brought a complaint Wednesday against Gov. Gavin Newsom, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County health officials, alleging they have shown unconstitutional favoritism in the enforcement of coronavirus regulations to the detriment of churches.
“I am very grateful the court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us because he is allowing is to meet,” MacArthur said. “This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. This also gives us an opportunity to show that we are not trying to be rebellious or unreasonable, but that we will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
The county’s lawsuit against the church asked that MacArthur and his staff be ordered to abide by health orders and not conduct indoor, in-person worship and that they require those attending outdoor services to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart.
The county issued a statement regarding its suit Thursday, saying it filed its legal action “reluctantly” and “after working with the church for several weeks in hopes of gaining voluntary compliance with the health officer orders, which allow for religious services to be held outdoors in order to slow the spread of a deadly and highly contagious virus.”
But church attorney Charles LiMandri said previously that it is unconstitutional for Newsom and the state to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the 1st Amendment. He said this is especially so when the government “has given free rein to protesters and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories and abortion
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.