The Los Angeles Times is being accused of hyping as an “outbreak” the positive diagnosis of three individuals out of over 7,000 people at the church John MacArthur pastors. An attorney representing Grace Community Church says the newspaper is sensationalizing a non-existent problem.
MacArthur made national headlines over the summer after the church opened up for Sunday services after remaining closed for four months. That act happened in defiance of strict lockdown orders and set up a legal fight with local and state officials over the legal right to gather inside the Sun Valley church at the same time numerous businesses are allowed to remain open.
The latest court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13.
In a weekend story, the L.A. Times reported three confirmed cases have been reported among the Grace Community congregation when Sunday attendance has averaged 7,000 worshippers.
“It’s obvious what the Times is trying to do,” says attorney Paul Jonna of Thomas More Society. “They’re trying to drive up hysteria over the fact that there were COVID cases at the church, with no hospitalizations.”
Jonna advises that California has a “ridiculously low standard” for the definition of an outbreak, which means three or more confirmed cases.
MacArthur and church elders announced in late July their Sun Valley church was reopening and the pastor published a lengthy blog post explaining the biblical, legal, and civil grounds for doing so: Jesus Christ is head of the Church, not the State of California.
“Therefore,” MacArthur wrote, “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.”
As the inevitable pushback came from the media and other churches, MacArthur was pointing out in August the congregation had no confirmed cases of the virus, which has proven to be highly contagious but non-lethal despite earlier apocalyptic projections that have now been proven wrong.
According to the latest statistics from L.A. County, there have been 914,000 confirmed cases, and 17,398 deaths, in a county with an estimated population of 10 million. The fatality rate for confirmed cases is currently .01 percent and it is .001 percent among the county’s entire population.
Jonna says the L.A. Times is using the confirmed cases at Grace Community Church to instill fear in people to worry about the virus.
“The church has never taken the position that no one could ever catch the virus at the church,” the attorney insists. “Rather the church has always been of the opinion that people can take reasonable precautions and the state cannot restrict the right to worship the way they’ve been trying to do.”
“Our position,” adds Thomas More attorney Jenna Ellis, “has been that L.A. County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98 percent survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open, and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.”