Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday said he is authorizing the department of water and power to shut off utilities at houses, businesses and “large gatherings” within 48 hours that are violating health orders related to COVID-19.
Although churches weren’t specifically mentioned, the term “large gatherings” has been used by the city to include houses of worship.
Garcetti’s order came the same week that pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles conducted several interviews and said his congregation would not obey a statewide order to stop meeting. MacArthur delivered a sermon in late July and told the church’s members: “We must obey God rather than men.” Churches in multiple counties, including Los Angeles County, are prohibited by an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom from gathering indoors.
“Tonight I'm authorizing the city to shut off Los Angeles Department of Water and Power service in the egregious cases in which houses, businesses and other venues are hosting unpermitted large gatherings,” Garcetti said at a Wednesday news conference. “Starting on Friday night, if LAPD responds and verifies that a large gathering is occurring at a property, and we see these properties reoffending time and time again, they will provide notice and initiate the process to request that DWP shut off service within the next 48 hours.”
The order, Garcetti said, focuses “on the people determined to break the rules, posing significant public dangers and a threat to all of us.”
Attorney and Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver on Friday said Christians in California “now have a choice – serve the Lord or have their basic utilities cut off.”
“Did you ever dream that Americans would have their water and power cut off if they dared worship God? It’s happening right now in California,” Staver said. “... As it stands right now in California, Gov. Newsom has banned all worship for 80 percent of the population, including home Bible studies and fellowship.”
Referencing restrictions in Los Angeles and elsewhere, Staver added, “I have never seen such outrageous attacks on religious liberty.”
“Liberty Counsel is working to bring these cases to the Supreme Court of the United States so that we can set the precedent once and for all – that no governor will be able to ignore the fact that religious freedom is free in the United States of America,” Staver added.
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Photo courtesy: Eric Garcetti Flickr/Creative Commons
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.