By Michael Ashcraft —
Sticking to the First Amendment and an unwavering belief that church is “essential,” easy-going and gentle-spirited Rob McCoy is turning into a political firebrand by defying a Superior Court temporary restraining order to shut down his indoor services this Sunday.
“We’re going to worship the Lord,” McCoy said Friday night on Godspeak, Calvary Chapel’s YouTube channel. “Our community desperately needs this. It’s critical to us. We are essential. This means the world to us.” (Update Aug. 10 below).
Pointing out that not one person from his church has gotten Covid, McCoy encouraged congregants and visitors to continue attending, even under the threat of receiving a misdemeanor citation under Judge Matthew Guasco’s Friday order.
“I will be at the 9 a.m service,” says one congregant. “I will take a bullet for the team.”
Newbury Park’s Godspeak Church has been holding indoor services since May 31, a fact that Ventura County officials were aware of. But all of a sudden, the county board had an emergency meeting behind closed doors to halt those services, voting 3-2 to sue Godspeak in court, McCoy said.
In siding with the county, Judge Guasco stated that First Amendment rights are paramount but health concerns and the jeopardy of the entire county due to outbreak risk bore greater weight. He said on a scale of 1 -10, the danger of outbreak was a 10, the Ventura County Star reported.
“There is no exercise of a right unless people are alive to exercise it,” the judge said.
Disputing such a bleak assessment of health risk, McCoy says just 80 residents of the county have died from Covid, 0.01% of the population — “tragic” but hardly deserving of such “Draconian” restrictions.
The cost of the cure has been a devastating and irreversible toll on the community, McCoy says. Of restaurants, 65% aren’t surviving. Family businesses are hobbled. Children are shuttered out of school and cut off from human interaction, causing psychological damage. People in recovery from substance abuse have been cut off from support networks and many have relapsed. Suicide rates have sky-rocketed.
The church is supposed to provide spiritual guidance, consolation, encouragement and strengthening to people who need help, but liberal politicians have largely discredited such public services, following alarmist sentiment fanned by the mainstream media.
While churches are shut down, marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores and abortion clinics remain open under many states’ and counties’ rules that leave some Christians scratching their heads and doubting their governing authorities’ priorities.
Most churches upheld the restrictions when they were first issued in March, but some pastors rethought their stance after they watched the same liberal politicians and media reporters validate massive gatherings — many without mask and without even a pretense of social distancing — at Black Lives Matter protests and riots after the death of George Floyd.
The influential Pastor John MacArthur vows to continue holding services, saying that both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution decree that the government has no authority over the church, citing the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The question, of course, is whether the right is absolute, or a health emergency limits the right.
McCoy questioned the timing of the “emergency” restraining order. What is the emergency? he asks. Officials have known about his church’s meetings since May 31. Why haven’t they advanced their concerns more methodically through normal open-doors meetings instead of rushing in secret to crack down?
“It’s just a political game,” says McCoy, who himself has been a politician. He was mayor of Thousand Oaks, a city in Ventura County.
The timing of the “emergency” seems rather to coordinate with similar moves by liberal politicians in the area. This week in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti threatened to shut off the water of MacArthur’s Grace Community Church if they defied lockdown orders. (Garcetti was photographed at BLM protests without a mask, raising questions about hypocrisy and double standards.)
Godspeak church has swelled 200% to 1,500 congregants as people hungry for the Word of God, prayer and communal worship have filled the sanctuary, McCoy says.
“Folks are really tired of the overreach of government,” he concludes.
UPDATE: Sheriff’s deputies issued NO citations and made NO arrests and congregants filled Godspeak Calvary Chapel Sunday. A few protesters showed up with placards insisting that the church was endangering the whole community by risking an outbreak, but these were vastly outnumbered by church members who held signs demanding their First Amendment rights. Sheriff’s deputies were on hand only to keep peace between the opposing protesters, and no incidents of significance occurred.
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Based in Los Angeles, Michael Ashcraft does Christian journalism, teaches in a Christian school and works as a financial professional.