The US megachurch led by embattled pastor John MacArthur has announced its release from "all outbreak related requirements and restrictions" following an investigation by California public health officials. Grace Community Church has been embroiled in a months-long battle with LA county authorities over its refusal to stop in-person gatherings despite rising rates of Covid-19 across the region.
In a statement posted to its website, the church said:
"We are glad to announce that we received a notice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday, November 12, saying that we have been cleared of COVID-19 outbreak.
"After a thorough investigation, Public Health officials have decided to rescind all outbreak related requirements and restrictions on Grace Community Church."
Many responded to the announcement with words of celebration.
"Praise God. May God continue to bless this church," one person wrote on Facebook. "Thank you for standing for liberty. Thank you for reminding our political leaders of the One higher than them."
MacArthur, who has remained defiant in his holding of in-person gatherings, previously declared from the pulpit that "there is no pandemic".
Early on, the prominent pastor appeared to agree with the public health measures, saying that refuting them would be "foolish" move that would make “Christianity look anything but loving".
But before long, his views began to shift. By September, MacArthur was openly saying that he'd happily go to prison for taking a stand against the authorities and keeping his church open.
"We received a letter with the threat that we could be fined or I could go to jail for a maximum of six months," he previously told Fox News. "If they want to tuck me into jail, I'm open for a jail ministry. I've done a lot of other ministries and haven't had the opportunity to do that one, so, bring it on."
The state of California now has more than one million cases of Covid-19, with over 18,000 deaths. LA County, where MacArthur's church is located, has by far the highest number of cases in the state - more than 342,000.