Judge refuses to hold John MacArthur in contempt without trial

Jenna Ellis: ‘It’s tyranny to even suggest that a government action cannot be challenged and must be obeyed without question’

Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church avoided being held in contempt of court Thursday when a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge ruled he was entitled to a full trial on the contempt issue—something unlikely to happen until 2021. And Dr. John MacArthur pledged Grace Community Church would continue to meet.

“We are holding church,” Pastor John MacArthur said. “The Lord Jesus requires us to meet together and we will continue to do that because we are commanded to and because it is our right.”

Lawyers for Los Angeles County wanted the pastor and church held in contempt of court for conducting indoor worship services despite a COVID-19 Pandemic limits on worship services. A hearing was held last week on the contempt issue and LA Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff issued the ruling today.

“I’m very grateful to Judge Beckloff for providing full due process and recognizing the importance of these constitutional protections,” MacArthur said. “The reality is that the county cannot show that their order is even rational, much less necessary. They have also applied their orders arbitrarily and discriminatorily against churches and we enjoy a heightened protection in America to hold church. I’ll continue to stand firm and we will continue to fight to protect religious freedom for the church.”

Lawyers from the Thomas More Society praised the decision.

“This ruling prevents Los Angeles County’s attempted rush to judgment in its continued prosecution of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church for courageously exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Charles LiMandri. “We are pleased that Judge Beckloff indicated he agreed with the major points that we made on behalf of Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church and we are very gratified that the judge’s ruling today reflects that he appreciates the importance of the constitutionally protected rights at issue in this case.”

Thomas More Special Counsel Jenna Ellis highlighted the important constitutional issues at stake.

“This is significant because no person can or should be held in contempt of a constitutionally invalid order. Los Angeles County continues to presume that its order is valid, with utter disregard for First Amendment protections,” Ellis said. “It’s tyranny to even suggest that a government action cannot be challenged and must be obeyed without question. This case goes to the heart of what our founders designed for the purpose of legitimate government—not to be above the rule of law. Pastor MacArthur is simply holding church, which is clearly his constitutionally protected right in this country.”

According to the Thomas More Society, the contempt trial likely would not take place until sometime in 2021 because of the Pandemic restrictions. Also, a hearing on some matters about the challenge to the preliminary hearing was scheduled for November 13, 2020.