Grace Community Church, the Los Angeles-area megachurch that re-opened in defiance of coronavirus-related lockdowns, is pushing back against what media are claiming is an “outbreak” originating at the church.
Multiple Los Angeles-area news outlets claimed last week that a COVID-19 “outbreak” is happening at the church, framing the story around the church’s defiance to lockdown orders.
The Los Angeles Times reported, “Coronavirus outbreak strikes L.A. megachurch that defied public health orders.”
Local news station KTLA-TV reported, “Coronavirus outbreak strikes defiant Sun Valley megachurch that held indoor services despite public health orders.”
According to attorneys for the church, the “outbreak” is actually just three confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Jenna Ellis, an attorney for Grace Community Church, called the stories “grossly misleading” meant to incite “fear-mongering” against the church.
“Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news. 0.04% is not an ‘outbreak.’ The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader,” Ellis said, the Daily Wire reported.
She added, “It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% 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.“
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed to both the Los Angeles Times and KTLA that the “outbreak” was just three COVID-19 cases.
More from the LA Times:
Under the county health officer’s order, places of worship must report to the county Public Health Department when at least three coronavirus cases are identified among staff or worshipers within a span of 14 days so the agency can determine whether there is an outbreak.
Grace Community Church is locked in a heated legal battle with Los Angeles authorities.
The church continues to hold indoor worship services in defiance of a ruling by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, which ordered the church to stop holding indoor services. The city has asked a judge to hold the church in contempt of court, according to the LA Times.
Officials investigating the COVID-19 infections told the Los Angeles Times that they will be working closely with the church to limit the transmission of the virus but did not provide any other details.
Places of worship in L.A. County, where the church is located, are required to report to the county Public Health Department when there are at least three coronavirus cases within a span of two weeks so the agency can determine whether there is an outbreak, the Times reported.
The Christian Post reached out to MacArthur and his church for comment on Friday. In a statement shared with CP, Jenna Ellis, attorney for MacArthur and Grace Community Church, said:
“Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news: 0.0004 or 0.043% is not an ‘outbreak.’ … It has never been the church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% 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.”
It does not appear that the announcement has affected current operations at the church.
Owen Strachan, an associate professor of Christian theology and director of the center for public theology at the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, revealed on Twitter Thursday that he delivered a presentation on transgenderism to the church’s men’s ministry on Wednesday night.
“I did not have ‘speak at Grace Community Church’ on my 2020 bingo card. Pure joy to speak on transgenderism last night for the men’s ministry. (Video coming.) Praise God for this faithful congregation, for Dr. MacArthur’s godly example and teaching, and for many friends in LA,” Strachan wrote.
The announcement of the coronavirus cases at Grace Community Church comes months after MacArthur and elders of the church decided to defy a second round of public health restrictions on indoor worship services and reopen in the summer. They contended that it was the church’s biblical duty to remain open and that they would not disobey “our Lord’s clear commands.”
MacArthur said last month that he wasn’t aware of any infections or hospitalizations due to the virus from an estimated 7,000 people who have attended his church amid the pandemic.
“We hear the other day that there is one death per 100,000 people from COVID in California at this present time, so the narrative doesn’t work. They can’t sell us this lie anymore that makes you shut down the church. We’ve had about 7,000 people in church the last couple of weeks. We don’t know of anybody sick. We’ve never had anybody in the hospital with COVID,” MacArthur said during a Q Session last month in which he urged pastors to open their churches because the supposed need for indefinite lockdowns is a “lie.”
He argued that while it’s “crystal clear that God has ordained government,” he will no longer aid and abet the “lie” of the ongoing lockdowns in response to COVID-19.
“Being a pastor means you’re a truth teller. That means you’re truth teller when it comes to the Bible. That means you protect your people from deception that comes from the world. That’s part of being a shepherd. You don’t want to aid and abet the lie. This is a lie and you can’t necessarily say that everybody that’s involved in it has an ulterior motive but the lie is dominating and you need to be a truth teller and you need to do your homework,” MacArthur said.