UPDATE — This week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to settle its lawsuit with Grace Community Church by paying its half of $800,000. The state will pay the other half.
The county’s payment will come out of its public health budget, Los Angeles Daily News reports. In a statement, the county said:
“After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some public health safety measures could not apply to houses of worship, resolving this litigation is the responsible and appropriate thing to do. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles County has been committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents. We are grateful to the county’s faith organizations for their continued partnership to keep their congregants and the entire community safe and protected from COVID-19.”
Los Angeles County has already spent more than $950,000 in attorney’s fees and other legal costs in its fight against the Sun Valley church, according to a summary provided to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, CBS Los Angeles reports.
AUGUST 27, 2021 — The legal battle between Los Angeles County and an evangelical megachurch that flouted COVID rules could end next week with the county forking over $400,000.
Last August, the county sued Sun Valley’s Grace Community Church and its Pastor John MacArthur for violating the county’s health order during the pandemic by continuing to hold large indoor services. Within hours, lawyers representing MacArthur and the church countersued the state, county, and L.A. city officials, alleging that the order violated their First Amendment rights.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors will vote on a settlement agreement on Tuesday that would compensate the church $400,000 for legal fees. According to the report, the settlement calls for the state to make an additional payment of $400,000 to settle the suit.
MacArthur made national headlines last summer when repeatedly mocked the state’s ban on indoor services, saying that the public health statistics were wrong, and defied the mask-wearing mandate. The church ended up having multiple COVID-19 outbreaks, including one last October.
Last August MacArthur told CNN, “We open the doors because that’s what we are. We’re a church, and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health.”
As the state reopened, the church started offering forms for members to claim a religious exemption to employer vaccine requirements, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In a recent letter to supporters of John MacArthur Charitable Trust, which funds several Grace operations, the pastor called the pending settlement a “monumental victory for Grace Community Church.”
Both the Board of Supervisors and attorneys for the church declined to comment to the Times.
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