A win and a loss for John MacArthur

John Macarthur, the Los Angeles-based pastor who is almost as famous for having his mega-church continue to meet  during Covid lockdowns as for his Bible-based preaching, has scored a big victory with the local health authorities and the State of California to pay the church US$800,000 in a court settlement.

“This agreement, county officials said, was reached in the context of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in February that told California it couldn’t enforce a ban on indoor worship because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Religious News Service reports. “LA County modified its health order and lifted the indoor worship ban after the ruling.”

“‘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,’ read a statement from county officials. ‘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.’”

This win for Macarthur comes after he revealed that he in fact had had Covid disease, and there had been an outbreak in his congregation. His announcement comes six months after the outbreak.

“It seems that the lawsuit is going in our favour,” he tells his congregation. “We are deeply grateful for that.” (The video above from the church was uploaded by the Roys report).

While claiming that deaths and outbreaks could not be traced back to his Grace Church, he says “We understand that many people contracted Covid. … It probably went through our church in maybe December, January. That’s when I began to realise how many people were ill. That’s when Patricia and I endured our own bout with Covid for about a week and a half. And we were fine and thankful for that.”

While the existence of some covid at Grace Church has been known since April, i was reported as a handful of cases only.

He gives his own theory of how to combat Covid, attacking social isolation rules.

“So the Lord has protected us through this. And I just want you to know that I am not trying to be a doctor but I do believe that God has designed us to be able to live in a world of viruses and the best way to do that is to live together so that we build up our immune systems and that’s what starting to come out in the media at this point.

“Those people who are isolated are in a more difficult position because they don’t have the normal defenses. God has done wonderful things in the human body to allow us to survive all of this.”

Los Angeles County has seen 1.41 million cases of Covid and 25,000 deaths.

MacArthur goes against the evidence base for social distancing in these comments. The verdict of the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine is “Although limited, the best available evidence appears to support social distancing measures as a means of reducing transmission and delaying spread. Staggered and cumulative implementation of these interventions may prove most effective. The timing and duration of such measures is critical.”

A preprint study based on Newcastle NSW data found that “The application of all four social distancing interventions: school closure, workplace non-attendance, increased case isolation, and community contact reduction is highly effective in flattening the epidemic curve, reducing the maximum daily case numbers, and lengthening outbreak duration.”