Editor’s Note: Oct. 26, 2020 This article has been updated to include a statement from John MacArthur’s legal team.
The Los Angeles Public Health department has identified John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California as the site of a new COVID-19 outbreak. This is the first outbreak being reported since the church opened its doors in July. The church will appear on the county’s outbreak dashboard later today.
Grace Community Church Outbreak
ChurchLeaders reached out to LA County’s Public Health department who confirmed they are investigating an outbreak associated with Grace Community Church. The department also said they will be listing the church on its outbreak dashboard today:
Public Health can confirm it is currently investigating an outbreak at Grace Community Church and will list the church on our outbreak dashboard today showing 3 confirmed cases. As with all investigations of outbreaks, Public Health will work closely with the church to support outbreak management strategies that can limit transmission of COVID-19.
In order to be considered an outbreak, an organization must have three laboratory-confirmed cases associated with it. Houses of worship are required to report to the county if they have three such cases. At this time, the LA County Public Health Department has not disclosed whether Grace Community Church’s confirmed cases are among congregants or staff.
After complying with the state of California’s stay at home orders which stipulated houses of worship cease from gathering in person beginning in March of this year, Grace Community Church started meeting again in July. While MacArthur has been famously outspoken about his defiance of the public health orders, he has implied that he didn’t explicitly tell people to come back to in-person services. Rather, he says they came on their own.
Throughout the weeks, though, MacArthur has maintained that no one has gotten sick. At the time of this article’s publishing, there has been no public statement from Grace Community Church or John MacArthur acknowledging the outbreak or the confirmed cases. The church referred ChurchLeaders to its legal team for comment, and we received the following statement written by Jenna Ellis, who is serving as Thomas More Society Special Counsel, and is representing MacArthur and Grace Community Church:
Three very mild positive tests among more than 7000 people is hardly news. 0.0004 or 0.043 percent 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. 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 percent 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.
MacArthur’s Fight Against the State and the Virus
MacArthur has had a number of things to say about the coronavirus and the resulting restrictions. He’s pursued legal action against the state of California for what he sees as overreach into the church’s affairs. He’s also said “there is no pandemic.”
The church and state are currently in the midst of a protracted legal battle. Different judges have ruled in favor and against MacArthur and the other leaders of Grace Community Church. The next scheduled court appearance for MacArthur is set for November 13, 2020.
The pastor has appeared on news outlets and podcasts, saying how disappointed he is that other churches are shutting down. Alluding to church leaders such as Andy Stanley and J.D. Greear, who have recently announced they will wait until next year to resume in-person services, MacArthur said “they don’t know what a church is.”