By Caleb Lunetta and Tammy Murga
A restraining order requested by Los Angeles County against the church led by John MacArthur, who is also the chancellor emeritus for The Master’s University and Seminary, has been denied by the judge.
For a number of weeks, MacArthur’s church in Sun Valley, Grace Community Church, has been holding in-person services without social distancing.
The objective of the restraining order, county officials said in a news release distributed last week, is to prohibit the church from holding indoor services. If the court issues the order, any future indoor services could be grounds for a contempt citation and fines of up to $20,000.
However, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ruled Monday in opposition to the county’s position, denying the restraining order for a fourth time.
“It is deeply disappointing that the court decided not to grant the county’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services, as it has done several times in recent weeks,” county officials said in their statement distributed after the Monday ruling. “We look forward to a favorable ruling when a full hearing is heard on the matter on Sept. 4.”
County officials said that the church’s meetings violate the county’s health officer order, and that the order has been put in place to “curb the transmission of COVID-19 in order to prevent serious illness and death among our residents.”
“The court correctly concluded that Los Angeles County’s renewed application for a temporary restraining order was both procedurally and substantively defective,” Paul Jonna, the church’s lawyer in the case, said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “This was their fourth unsuccessful attempt to obtain a court order prohibiting indoor worship services at Grace Community Church. We look forward to fully vindicating our clients’ constitutionally protected rights in subsequent proceedings for this important case.”
Beckleoff stated in his ruling the county’s case failed to meet statutory requirements.
The Master’s University
Despite Grace Community deciding to go against the health order, The Master’s University, of which MacArthur was a longtime president of the college, is following the guidelines set forth by the Public Health Department, they say.
“We’re bringing back to campus only students that are taking part in training for the essential workforce and need in-person instruction,” said Corey Williams, chief communications officer for TMU. “A good majority of classes are happening remotely. L.A. County said students with no feasible living options can be in our dorms.”
Events at the university have been canceled until further notice with the exception of protests and faith-based services, social distancing within those few classes that are meeting will be enforced and the university is having deep sanitation occur throughout the campus.
“Deep cleaning and masks are required,” said Williams. “We will also have grab-and-go food options and limit the number of people that can pick up food at a time. We’re a pretty small operation, compared to the vast majority of higher education institutions, so we don’t have to worry.”
The university released a plan earlier in the summer, but following changes to the health order, modified its return guidelines for staff and students. The plan had been developed by the university’s COVID-19 task force set up in March that included an epidemiologist, doctor and on-campus medical staff. They spent the summer putting together all possible reopening plans and they met every week, Williams said.
“It’s going to be strange but we’re very excited to be back,” said Williams.