Judge Rules in Favor of Sun Valley Church in Spat over Indoor Services

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Sun Valley church can hold indoor services if attendees wear masks and stay at least six feet apart, a judge ruled today.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon issued his decision after hearing arguments in Los Angeles County's bid for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church.

The church and county filed dueling lawsuits earlier this week over health orders requiring that houses of worship not hold indoor services during the coronavirus crisis.

Grace Community Church and Pastor John MacArthur brought a complaint Wednesday against Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County health officials, alleging they have shown an unconstitutional favoritism in the enforcement of coronavirus regulations to the detriment of churches.

The county's lawsuit against the church asked that MacArthur and his staff be ordered to abide by health orders and not conduct indoor, in-person worship and that they require those attending outdoor services to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart.

The county issued a statement regarding its suit Thursday, saying if filed its legal action “reluctantly'' and “after working with the church for several weeks in hopes of gaining voluntary compliance with the health officer orders, which allow for religious services to be held outdoors in order to slow the spread of a deadly and highly contagious virus.''

But church attorney Charles LiMandri said previously that it is unconstitutional for Newsom and the state to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment. He said this is especially so when the government “has given free rein to protesters and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories and abortion providers.''

Photo: Getty Images

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