In response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, publicly and respectfully informed civic leaders that they have “exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction,” and “faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.”
“As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture,” stated MacArthur, joined by the pastors and elders of the church. “Therefore, we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
Although the U.S. Constitution affirms that the government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion, MacArthur noted that the argument his church is making is not a constitutional one.
“Our argument therefore is purposely not grounded in the First Amendment; it is based on the same biblical principles that the Amendment itself is founded upon. The exercise of true religion is a divine duty given to men and women created in God’s image,” he said, citing Genesis 1:26–27, Acts 4:18–20, 5:29, and Matthew 22:16–22.
“In other words, freedom of worship is a command of God, not a privilege granted by the state,” he added.
In a later statement, the Thomas More Society, which is providing legal representation for MacArthur and his church, stressed that the government is in fact mandated by the Constitution to preserve and protect for churches the fundamental right to free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly.
“It is unconstitutional for Governor Newsom and the State of California to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment,” stated Charles LiMandri, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society.
“Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference,” he continued. “This is especially the case when the government has given free rein to protestors, and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories, and abortion providers.”
In a similar vein, NRB CEO Troy Miller reiterated the words of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who previously made clear that the government “may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.”
“People of faith are not second-class citizens and we strongly support Grace Community Church,” said Miller on behalf of the world’s pre-eminent association of Christian broadcasters and communicators, of which MacArthur and his Grace to Youmedia ministry are members.
LiMandri further noted that the government orders are also unconstitutional because there is no compelling need for the onerous restrictions on the churches at this time.
“The hospitals are not overwhelmed and the percentage death rate from COVID-19 is now extremely small,” he said. “It is time for Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti to recognize what President Trump has already proclaimed: churches are providing an ‘essential’ service to the people. Therefore, they must be allowed to serve the people in the manner in which God has called them.”
According to the Thomas More Society, the City of Los Angeles, through a cease and desist letter, has threatened Grace Community Church and MacArthur specifically with a daily fine of $1,000 or arrest.
To read the full statement from John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, click here.