Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, a church that has been defying local health department orders not to hold large scale indoor meetings, has been struck by a COVID outbreak.
The church led by well-known Bible teacher John MacArthur has been holding packed services in its 3700 seat auditorium, defying a court injunction sought by the LA County Health Board.
“Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has seen three confirmed cases, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Public health officials are investigating the outbreak and said they will work closely with the church to help limit transmission of the coronavirus in the church, which has an estimated attendance of 7,000.”
UPDATE: Religion News service is carrying a statement by Jenna Ellis, attorney for John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, that says the cases shouldn’t be characterized as an ‘outbreak.’ She called the LA Times headline “grossly misleading.”
“Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news,” Ellis said. “0.0004% is not an ‘outbreak.’”
“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.”
(Eternity is an Australian site from a nation where even one case is news, and more than one is regarded as outbreak. We recognise that things may be regarded differently in the United States)
Two weeks ago, MacArthur repeated his assertion the physical church meetings are essential. “’We have to stand firm on the reality that the Church is essential,’ he says in a short video posted on social media last week”, NRB Today Online a christian radio newsletter reported. “’The most meaningful, transformative, exemplary lives in a community all come together in the church, and that’s been our impact on the city of Los Angeles.’”
In the first few weeks of holding indoor services MacArthur told his congregation “The good news is you’re here, you are not distancing, and you are not wearing masks.” His comments were met with cheers and clapping from the congregation.
The church’s streamed videos showed a tightly packed non-masked gathering – but the audience shots were then scaled back.
A few weeks later MacArthur claimed “There is no Pandemic.”