Los Angeles County is terminating a 45-year-old parking lot lease with Grace Community Church and has given the congregation 30 days to vacate the space in an action the church’s supporters say is retaliation for recent defiance of COVID-19 health restrictions.
Grace Community, where John MacArthur pastors, pays the county approximately $8,301 per month for the parking lot and has leased it continually since 1975.
The county’s Department of Public Works sent a letter dated Aug. 28 to the church saying the Los Angeles County Flood Control District “is exercising its right to terminate the Agreement by giving a minimum of 30-day written notice of intention to terminate.”
“Please be advised that by this notice, the District will hereby terminate the Agreement effective October 1, 2020,” the letter said. “... If Grace fails to vacate the premise as required, the District may enter the premises and remove Grace's personal property in accordance with the Agreement and applicable law, and Grace will be responsible for any resultant expenses incurred by the District.”
The county and the congregation are involved in a legal battle that has seen the church win three times at the trial court level and the county win once at an appellate court. The church is defying state and county restrictions prohibiting indoor worship services. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 4.
“Los Angeles County is retaliating against Grace Community Church for simply exercising their constitutionally protected right to hold church and challenging an unreasonable, unlawful health order,” said Jenna Ellis, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, which is representing the church. “In America, we have a judicial system to ensure that the executive branch does not abuse its power, and Grace Community Church has every right to be heard without fear of reprisal. The Democrats’ message to Americans is clear – if you don’t bow to every whim of tyranny, the government will come after you.
“The church has peacefully held this lease for 45 years and the only reason the county is attempting eviction is because John MacArthur stood up to their unconstitutional power grab. This is harassment, abusive, and unconscionable.”
Photo courtesy: Grace Community Church Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.