As It Battles Deadly COVID-19 Epidemic, L.A. County Files Suit to Enforce Health Officer Orders Against Indoor Church Services
Los Angeles County has filed a lawsuit seeking full compliance by Grace Community Church to follow public health orders in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep church members and all Los Angeles County residents safe and healthy.
The County took this action reluctantly, after working with the church for several weeks in hopes of gaining voluntary compliance with the Health Officer Orders, which allow for religious services to be held outdoors in order to slow the spread of a deadly and highly contagious virus.
A copy of the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, can be found here.
While not commenting on the specifics of the lawsuit--or on a lawsuit filed by the church against California’s governor and other elected and public health officials--the Department of Public Health released the following statement underscoring the urgent necessity of compliance by all businesses and institutions, including faith-based organizations, as the County works to slow the spread of the deadly virus that has claimed the lives of more than 5,100 County residents:
We are working hard each week to respond to the many complaints related to non-compliance. The County always wants to amicably resolve these issues with all members of the community, including churches. We use education as the primary step in gaining compliance; however, when compliance is not achieved, we must use the other tools at our disposal.
For the health and safety of both worshippers and the wider community, indoor worship services have been prohibited within the County since mid-July. This was a result of a California Department of Public Health mandate and many faith organizations have demonstrated great leadership and compassion by following the health officer orders and keeping their congregations and the broader community safe.
COVID-19 is a highly infectious virus and it is easily transmitted indoors, in crowds and when people are talking, raising their voices or singing. Research shows that gatherings outdoors with participants maintain physical distance and wearing facemasks are less risky.
Los Angeles County is grateful to those religious institutions that are adhering to the Health Officer Order, and have found ways to worship that do not put the wider community at risk. As a community we need to be able to both protect public health and safety and operate the beloved community institutions that are central to our lives.
One thing is certain: we will not be able to enforce our way out of this pandemic and we need everyone doing their part to keep themselves and each other safe and healthy.