California Gov. Gavin Newsom is overstepping his executive privileges with "draconian" restrictions by shutting down churches and telling believers they cannot worship during the coronavirus pandemic, a prominent pastor told "Fox News @ Night" Monday.
Pastor John MacArther says he has been warned he could face fines or arrest for defying Newsom's July orders by hosting indoor services at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles County, which he says is not warranted by the reality of COVID-19.
"We feel like we are the most essential reality in the world," MacArthur told host Shannon Bream. "Look, Jesus is Lord ... He is the head of our church. Governor Newsom is not the head of the church. [Los Angeles] Mayor [Eric] Garcetti is not the head of the church."
"We respect them for their temporal officer leadership in our government that when they move into the life of the church and tell the church what it can do, they're usurping a role that they don't have," the Sun Valley pastor explained. "The Constitution doesn't give them the power to do that, and they don't certainly have the spiritual power to do that, to usurp the place that only Jesus Christ has over his church."
The Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, expressed his support for MacArthur's stand for "religious freedom." While a network of churches, led by Pastor Che Ahn of Harvest Rock Church, filed a lawsuit in July challenging the Democrat governor's orders, not all faith leaders in the Golden State agree.
Gavin Ortlund, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Ojal in Southern Calif., wrote in an op-ed responding to MacArthur that he is concerned he is putting "importance of worship" ahead of "love for neighbor," "obedience to government," and "maintaining a good witness," citing Scripture.
MacArthur, however, says his church has been obeying the government for the last 50 years, loving their neighbor and "not spreading anything but the gospel," noting that none of his members have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"But never before has the government invaded the territory that belongs only to the Lord Jesus Christ and told us, we can't meet. We can't worship. We can't sing," he said. "There is no power given to the government to make those kinds of calls against us."