In all the news concerning Afghanistan, a major win in the battle to defend religious liberty against government mandates slipped under the radar.
From Just The News:
The state of California and Los Angeles County are each paying $400,000 to end litigation by Grace Community Church alleging that COVID-19 restrictions on in-person worship infringed on its constitutional right to religious freedom.
The county Board of Supervisors approved its share of the settlement at a Tuesday meeting, bringing the total it has spent on the litigation to $1.35 million, City News Service reports. The settlement money is coming out of its public health budget.
Failure Joe Biden has fattened the public health budget enough with his American Rescue Plan, so at least we know that money is going to good use.
My colleague Alex Parker reported back in July 2020 about Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur’s defiance of the then-statewide mandates on in-person worship. MacArthur came under threats and condemnation from the faithful and faithless alike. Los Angeles County went to court several times to try and shut him down—with limited success—then went beyond imposing fines to shutting off the church’s water and electricity, and finally taking the step of canceling their parking leases!
As the RedState team reported in 2020, many California churches were fighting back against the draconian restrictions and mandates imposed by Governor Gavin Newsom. All this while unchecked rioting occurred in major cities across the nation over George Floyd‘s death (he was Black) while in the custody of white police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd managed to get a full-court press of three days for funeral processions normally given to heads of state, while Americans were not allowed to go outside their homes or go to worship.
It was disgusting.
On May 31, 2020 (Pentecost Sunday), Harvest Rock Church (HRC) in Pasadena, CA, and a coalition of churches represented by the Liberty Counsel took the step to either meet for worship outside or to open their doors for indoor and in-person worship.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s November 2020 decision in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo slapped back on COVID-19 government mandates affecting religious in-person worship, lower court rulings on similar cases were required to fall in line. A majority of those cases were coming out of California. This ruling not only changed the trajectory of the L.A. County v. Grace Community lawsuit but the HRC lawsuit as well. I reported in May that HRC had prevailed in its lawsuit, and Newsom and the State of California were required to pay 1.35 million in damages and attorneys fees. As a crucial part of this settlement, the Liberty Counsel obtained a permanent injunction against discrimination and shutdowns for ALL religious institutions.
Now the State and L.A. County get to pay the piper to MacArthur and Grace Community Church.
At the beginning of a sermon MacArthur gave on Sunday, he updated his congregation on the then-pending lawsuit and made it clear that the entire settlement would be going to Thomas More Society, who did not impose any legal fees in the midst of this battle.
“So nothing will come to us, except the affirmation that the Lord preserved and protected us through this,” MacArthur said.
MacArthur also revealed that he, his wife, and members of his congregation had contracted, and survived, COVID during this period. MacArthur had some provocative things to say about COVID vaccinations and natural immunity. You can listen to this here.
Jenna Ellis took to Twitter to tout the victory.
The church IS essential.
Our statement: pic.twitter.com/Rin5W7eA8x
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 31, 2021
Thomas More Society special counsel Jenna Ellis also announced the “total win” for the megachurch and Pastor John MacArthur on Twitter.
“It has been a hard-fought battle to preserve religious liberty and we hope that this result will encourage Californians, and all Americans, to continue to stand firm that church is essential,” she said with her co-counsel Charles LiMandri.
With the push for vaccine passports and mandates being instituted on the local and state level in California and other U.S. states, these prior rulings will be useful precedents in the ongoing battles with this forever pandemic. The Liberty Counsel and Thomas More Society are organizations leading the charge for individual and religious liberties.