After COVID-19 outcry, L.A. church postpones convention for three,500

A megachurch in Solar Valley that has beforehand defied Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 public well being orders is suspending plans to carry an annual convention in March that well being officers feared may change into a superspreader occasion.

The announcement on Friday by Grace Neighborhood Church stated the transfer was taken due to threatened authorized motion by state and county officers. The transfer got here after The Occasions published a story concerning the considerations expressed by public well being officers.

The convention, initially scheduled for early March, was anticipated to attract three,500 males from throughout the nation to the church’s massive campus. The complicated is in an space that continues to have among the many highest case charges of COVID-19 inside the county, and neighbors have held protests after Sunday companies, pleading with churchgoers to put on masks.

A number of weeks after final 12 months’s Shepherds’ Convention, two older males from Washington state who attended the occasion — one among them a 90-year-old pastor — died of issues from COVID-19, in response to family members and news reports by Slavic Sacramento, a every day Russian-language information web site in California. (It’s not identified the place the boys contracted the virus or whether or not it was linked to the occasion.)

County well being officers expressed reduction with the church’s determination, which got here after officers requested the church to “rethink the convention in mild of the dangers.”

“We … recognize when people and organizations do the suitable factor to maintain the general public protected,” stated a press release from the Division of Public Well being. “Following the Well being Officer Order helps forestall the unfold of COVID-19, a lethal virus that has sickened greater than 1,000,000 folks and killed greater than 18,000 of our mates, household, and neighbors in Los Angeles County. Collectively, each motion to cut back the danger of unfold will get us nearer to seeing an finish to this pandemic.”

The choice marked an abrupt turnabout for the church, which had despatched a optimistic message Friday morning to convention attendees. “We’re trying ahead to serving you and three,500 different pastors and church leaders in March,” the e-mail stated.

About 9 hours later, the church introduced the postponement, which it stated was a smart determination given the circumstances.

“In mild of our ongoing litigation and up to date threats from the County of Los Angeles and the State of California, we have now determined that probably the most prudent plan of action at the moment is to postpone the Shepherd’s Convention,” the church stated in a press release on its convention web site.

Grace Neighborhood Church has been in a authorized battle with the county since August, when the county sued the church after it restarted indoor worship companies, which had been prohibited on the time below the county’s well being order. Most attendees don’t put on masks throughout indoor Sunday service, steadfastly following the beliefs of the church’s chief, Pastor John MacArthur, who has been skeptical of the pandemic and outspoken about his church’s constitutional liberties.

Although the Supreme Courtroom recently ruled that indoor companies are permitted below sure restrictions, county well being officers had stated the Shepherds’ Convention doesn’t qualify as a worship service however is as an alternative a convention and thus prohibited below the county’s public well being order.

“A convention hosted by a church or anybody else is a gathering prohibited below the Well being Officer Order,” county officers stated in a press release.

Of their assertion Friday, church leaders stated they plan to proceed to battle the county in courtroom.

“We won’t yield to authorities’s infringement upon the biblical command to worship and collect collectively,” church leaders stated in a press release. “We intend to steadfastly defend this reality and acquire acceptable constitutional and authorized protections and additional reduction from the Courtroom.”