California Taxpayers Will Pay $800,000 to Church Targeted by Newsom, City Officials

State, local authorities threatened pastor for defying unconstitutional lockdown policies

Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
September 3, 2021

Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D., Calif.) administration and Los Angeles County quietly agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a local church in connection to their enforcement of unconstitutional lockdown policies, according to a legal settlement.

State and local authorities will each pay $400,000 to Grace Community Church and pastor John MacArthur to cover the legal costs wrought by Newsom's shutdown order, which singled out churches for capacity limits as he eased restrictions on businesses. State officials threatened massive fines and even jail time for the pastor after the church resumed services in the summer of 2020. Local officials went so far as to cancel the church's five-decade-old lease on a parking lot. MacArthur, in a statement, said the settlement, as well as numerous legal victories, vindicated his stand-off with California Democrats.

"Over the past year, our congregation has seen his hand of blessing in ways like never before, and the Lord's promise has been realized: 'I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it,'" MacArthur said.

Newsom's church restrictions, which covered everything from attendance size to whether parishioners could sing, have proved costly to taxpayers. Los Angeles County spent nearly $1 million in legal fees in connection to the Grace Community Church lawsuit. California paid $2 million in legal fees to two other churches in June in response to separate suits over lockdown enforcement.

Neither the Newsom administration nor Los Angeles County responded to requests for comment.

Newsom enacted some of the harshest lockdown measures in the nation in 2020, but the Democrat's heavy-handed policies, as well as his refusal to personally comply with them, helped inspire a recall campaign in addition to legal challenges in state and federal courts. In February, the Supreme Court struck down Newsom's indoor service ban in a 5-4 ruling.

Paul Jonna, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, which represented the Sun Valley-based church, said MacArthur was specifically targeted by the state because he brought national attention to the injustices of government-enforced lockdowns.

"They wanted to make an example of him," Jonna told the Washington Free Beacon. "He had 7,000 people packed in the church side by side every Sunday. He was completely defying the restrictions. He was doing it in a public fashion. They didn't like that."

The California recall election is scheduled for Sept. 14.