A judge has agreed to delay next week’s scheduled hearing on whether he should cancel a preliminary injunction he issued last summer against a Sun Valley church that flouted coronavirus health mandates, saying he wants to give lawyers for the house of worship and Los Angeles County time to discuss a possible settlement.
The preliminary injunction was issued last Sept. 10 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff as a way of stemming the spread of the coronavirus, based in part on evidence presented by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that Grace Community Church was holding indoor Sunday services, prompting the county to sue the church on Aug. 14.
The county then sought contempt proceedings against the Roscoe Boulevard church and its pastor, John MacArthur, for continuing to hold indoor services and for not enforcing masking and social distancing in violation of Beckloff’s injunction.
Because the county subsequently allowed indoor church services to resume amid declining COVID-19 infection rates, county lawyers later said they wanted the church and pastor found in contempt only on the masking and social distancing issues and for the preliminary injunction to be enforced for 25% indoor capacity.
But in court papers filed May 8, county attorneys asked that the hearing on the church’s motion to vacate the injunction as well as the contempt issue not go forward on June 23 because “the parties are presently discussing the terms of a settlement that would resolve this entire action and obviate the need for the court to decide the motion to vacate.”
The hearing, if necessary, is now scheduled for July 30.
Grace Community Church attorneys cite two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in their motion to lift the preliminary injunction in its entirety and end the county’s effort contempt effort. In one, a Catholic diocese and a group of Jewish synagogues challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on churches and won, the church attorneys argue in their court papers.
Then, on Feb. 5, the high court struck down the indoor worship ban while allowing caps on attendance and a ban on singing, according to the church’s attorneys.