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LA County Seeking Penalties Against Grace Community Church For Breaking Coronavirus Regulations, Holding Indoor Services

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Los Angeles County is pushing back even further against a Sun Valley church that defied court and health orders not to hold indoor services during the pandemic.

County officials are asking a judge to impose penalties against Grace Community Church after it has continued to host indoor services.

A statement from the county said health officials have been in contact with the church and other houses of worship to educate leaders about the increased risk of spreading coronavirus during sustained periods of indoor contact with others.

"Los Angeles County is pleased that the California Court of Appeal recognizes the vital importance of our Health Officer Orders in protecting the lives and health of our residents as we work to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus,'' a county statement released Saturday said.

"We will continue to work closely with all religious institutions, including Grace Community Church, to make sure their congregants are protected and provided with accurate information about worshiping safely during this phase of the pandemic.''

It is unclear what type of penalties L.A. County is seeking to have imposed against the church, and whether it will be financial in nature.

Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur has repeatedly held indoor Sunday church services despite court orders not to do so.

Last Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant had denied almost all of the county's reasons for requesting a temporary restraining order against the church, saying it is L.A. County's responsibility to show "why they should be permitted to infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of churches to freely exercise religion.''

MacArthur issued complaints against Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Mayor Eric Garcetti and county health officials, alleging they have unconstitutionally displayed favoritism in enforcing coronavirus regulations, leaving churches at a disadvantage.

"The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has decided to continue their unconstitutional attack against Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church,'' church attorney Jenna Ellis said. "They are now asking the court to hold the church in contempt for simply being open for worship last Sunday. Pastor MacArthur is standing firm that church is essential and has no plans to yield to this tyrannical board, which is clearly defying the constitution's mandate to protect religious liberty.''

Under current California and L.A. County health orders, houses of worship are only allowed to hold services outdoors and require all attendees to wear face coverings and maintain physical distancing.

A hearing on this case was set for Thursday in downtown's L.A. County Superior Court.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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