California megachurch defies state coronavirus order and allows thousands for Sunday services

‘Nobody’s forcing anything, they’re here because they want to be here,’ says pastor John MacArthur

James Crump
Thursday 13 August 2020 23:14
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A California megachurch pastor has defended the decision to open his church to thousands of people for Sunday services, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California, has held multiple Sunday services over the last few weeks, which have been attended by at least 6,000 people, pastor John MacArthur told CNN on Tuesday.

In July, California governor Gavin Newsom ordered that religious services be limited to 25 per cent capacity of a building or a maximum of 100 people, in order to stop the spread of Covid-19, as the state has seen record daily coronavirus totals over the last six weeks.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Brianna Keilar questioned pastor MacArthur about the large crowds at his church, and asked: “When we look inside of your church, it is indoors, as you said, there’s thousands of people, there is absolutely no social distancing, there [are] no masks.

“Why not get creative, so you can obey, as you put it ‘god’s law,’ but also obey public health regulations?”

The pastor told the host that the church attempted to follow the restrictions in the first few weeks, and added that they set up a large tent that included a television so that people could watch the services from outside.

However, he confirmed that the outside area quickly became too crowded and people ended up sitting inside in the weeks that followed, according to The Hill.

Pastor MacArthur, who also claimed during the interview that the state’s coronavirus restrictions made “no sense in light of the actual numbers of deaths,” added that the church did not “orchestrate this, this is a church. We don’t ask people to make a reservation to come to church.”

When pressed by Ms Keilar on why he decided to open the church doors to thousands of people, the pastor replied that he was not going to have congregants “standing outside in a mob.”

He added: “We opened the doors because that’s what we are, we’re a church and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health and how that balance works for each one of them.

“Nobody’s forcing anything, they’re here because they want to be here,” the pastor added.

California has recorded more than 533,000 Covid-19 cases, as at least 9,866 people have died after contracting the virus since the pandemic began, while Los Angeles has seen the most coronavirus cases of any county in the US, with at least 200,802 confirmed cases and 4,763 deaths.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, in the US as a whole, some 5.2 million people have tested positive for coronavirus. The death toll has reached at least 166,750.

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