After COVID-19 outcry, L.A. church postpones convention for 3,500

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 might grow to be a superspreader occasion.

The announcement on Friday by Grace Neighborhood Church mentioned the transfer was taken due to threatened authorized motion by state and county officers. The transfer got here after The Occasions revealed a narrative in regards to the issues expressed by public well being officers.

The convention, initially scheduled for early March, was anticipated to attract 3,500 males from throughout the nation to the church’s giant campus. The complicated is in an space that continues to have among the many highest case charges of COVID-19 throughout the county, and neighbors have held protests after Sunday companies, pleading with churchgoers to put on masks.

Just a few weeks after final 12 months’s Shepherds’ Convention, two older males from Washington state who attended the occasion — certainly one of them a 90-year-old pastor — died of problems from COVID-19, in keeping with members of the family and information experiences by Slavic Sacramento, a each day Russian-language information web site in California. (It’s not recognized 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 resolution, which got here after officers requested the church to “rethink the convention in mild of the dangers.”

“We … admire when people and organizations do the correct factor to maintain the general public protected,” mentioned a press release from the Division of Public Well being. “Following the Well being Officer Order helps stop the unfold of COVID-19, a lethal virus that has sickened greater than one million folks and killed greater than 18,000 of our mates, household, and neighbors in Los Angeles County. Collectively, each motion to scale 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 wanting ahead to serving you and three,500 different pastors and church leaders in March,” the e-mail mentioned.

About 9 hours later, the church introduced the postponement, which it mentioned was a clever resolution 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 right now is to postpone the Shepherd’s Convention,” the church mentioned 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 have been prohibited on the time underneath 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 Court docket not too long ago dominated that indoor companies are permitted underneath sure restrictions, county well being officers had mentioned the Shepherds’ Convention doesn’t qualify as a worship service however is as a substitute a convention and thus prohibited underneath the county’s public well being order.

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

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

“We is not going to yield to authorities’s infringement upon the biblical command to worship and collect collectively,” church leaders mentioned in a press release. “We intend to steadfastly defend this reality and acquire applicable constitutional and authorized protections and additional reduction from the Court docket.”

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