SUN VALLEY, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — The LA County Health Department confirms that a COVID outbreak is under investigation at Grace Community Church, with three confirmed cases.
That has drawn a sharp response from the church, which has been operating in defiance of county health regulations for months.
While there is limited traffic at Grace Community Church on this typical Friday, Sundays can draw a crowd of more than 7,000 people. It’s blatantly against a county ban on large, in-person, indoor services.
Pastor John MacArthur has been a vocal pandemic skeptic.
After this week’s declaration of an outbreak by LA County, the church remains defiant.
“Three very mild positive tests among more than 7000 people is hardly news. 0.0004 or 0.043% 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 super spreader. 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.“Pastor John MacArthur
There is defiance all over the country. While most places of worship are adhering to guidelines by moving services online, many others are not.
North Carolina recently unveiled new guidelines for a limited return.
“We sit in every other seat, we also encourage our folks to social distance, we’re requiring masks on all of our ushers and our greeters,” said Pastor Tim Rabon with Beacon Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.
Religious gatherings have proven to be problematic and deadly.
After a convocation event earlier this month at this church in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week brought news of over a hundred confirmed COVID cases and three deaths.
“I just think a group coming together, I don’t care what it’s for, if they say don’t do it, we shouldn’t do it,” said Catherine Williams, who lost a family member to COVID.
That outbreak has also spread to a nearby senior home where 12 cases are confirmed after a number of residents returned from the church convocation.
Over in Durham, Pastor Andy Thompson is glad he moved all services online when the pandemic hit.
“Every time they tell me, oh, they’re having meetings, I always say, “You might want to rethink that. Do you really have to have meetings for you to minister the gospel of Christ?” Thomas said.
Knox Thames is a former diplomat who’s an expert on religious and global affairs.
He believes people of all faiths need to be patient while keeping things in perspective.
“What we’re facing here is challenging, for sure, it’s disruptive, it’s discouraging, it could be illegal and that’s why you have the courts to go fight this out, but it’s not persecution. Our brothers and sisters need to have that global perspective that a bad day in America still beats a good day in so many places around the world,” Thomas said.
The situation at Grace is indeed a court battle.
LA County sued the church back in August and a judge ruled that Grace must stop holding indoor services, but that has not happened.
Both sides are back in court on November 13.