Against strong and comprehensive government opposition, Grace Church made a stand not to forsake the gathering of the saints. Though the potential consequences for this decision were threatening, we had no choice but to obey our Lord rather than men. He has shown His faithfulness to an obedient congregation by pouring out blessing we never could have imagined. Today, with thankfulness to our Lord, we look back at the events of the past year and a half.
March 12 Out of an abundance of caution and in deference to government officials, Grace Church decides to temporarily stop meeting for in-person services.
June 7 While cities around the country are being overtaken by riots, and protesters are calling for the abolition of the police, we invite local law enforcement to come to Grace Church for free lunch and a MacArthur Study Bible in thanks for their service. Members begin returning to attend worship services of their own volition.
July 23 After careful deliberation, the elders of Grace Church agree that the church can no longer abstain from assembling. They publish the official statement, “Christ, Not Caesar, Is the Head of the Church,” which asserts the God-given authority of the church to hold worship services, regardless of the opinions or directives of the government. The elders affirmed that:
“Christ is the one true head of His Church, and we intend to honor that vital truth in all our gatherings. For that preeminent reason, we cannot accept and will not bow to the intrusive restrictions government officials now want to impose on our congregation.”
August 12 Though protests and riots are allowed to go unimpeded, Los Angeles County ignores the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion and seeks to prevent Grace Church from meeting at all. GCC sues Governor Newsom, Los Angeles County, and the city of Los Angeles: Los Angeles County countersues GCC.
August 24 Though an August 20 ruling favored Grace Church, the court rules that GCC can be fined and banned from gathering. However, in an apparent clerical error, Los Angeles County omits the ban from gathering in the legal documents. The judge, therefore, denies Los Angeles County’s renewed request to stop GCC from gathering.
August 28 In an apparent act of retribution, Los Angeles County terminates the 45-year-old parking lease agreement with GCC.
September 10 Things take a bleak turn when a judge issues an order prohibiting GCC from holding in-person, indoor services.
September 13 GCC holds a packed morning service defying the court order.
September 24 Judge rules that he will not hold GCC in contempt for violating state health order without further ruling on the constitutionality of the order.
November 13 Judge sets trial date for January 15, 2021, to consider the constitutionality of the restrictions placed on GCC. After being postponed five times, the trial never takes place.
November 25 In the first of many favorable rulings from the Supreme Court, New York is barred from enforcing caps on indoor religious service attendance.
February 5 The Supreme Court lifts California’s unconstitutional ban on indoor church services.
April 8 Two days after California announces an end for COVID restrictions on June 15, the court postpones GCC’s hearing, rescheduling to June 23, eight days after the orders expire.
May 27–June 1 Our lawyers secure two significant legal victories for other clients in California against Governor Newsom. The state agrees to never again impose discriminatory restrictions on houses of worship in California and to pay $2.15 million in legal fees.
August 31, 2021 A final settlement agreement is approved, thus signifying the end of the legal battle between GCC and the county.
A year after this trial began, we have settled our lawsuit with the county. In the opinion of our lawyers, this settlement is nothing less than a total victory and complete vindication of our position. In exchange for resolving the lawsuits, the State of California and County of Los Angeles agreed to drop all legal charges, lawsuits, injunctions, fines, and other penalties they were attempting to claim against GCC. In addition, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District agreed to fully reinstate the rental agreement for the parking spaces that they previously tried to terminate, an action that we and our lawyers viewed as retaliatory and improper. Perhaps most remarkably, and tellingly, the State and County agreed to pay $800,000 for our legal fees. In the great majority of lawsuits, each party must pay for their own legal fees, and so for the State and County to cover the costs of both our lawyers as well as their own, appears to be a clear recognition that they would never prevail against us. All of these concessions were made by the State of California and the County of Los Angeles in accordance with the permanent injunction placed on them in several other lawsuits, which forbids them from imposing restrictions on churches that they do not impose on other businesses.
Join us in thanking the Lord that a settlement agreement has been reached between Los Angeles County and Grace Community Church. The following is a statement from Pastor John:
We are very grateful for our Lord’s protection and providence throughout this past year. Our commitment to the Word of God and His church has never wavered. We have simply continued to stand firm, as we always have and always will. We put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the head of the church. Over the past year, our congregation has seen His hand of blessing in ways like never before, and the Lord’s promise has been realized: “I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” I am thankful for the advocacy of our attorneys, Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri, and this outcome.
See this updated timeline in the September 5, 2021 Grace Today.