The tyrannical governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has declared war on the church of Jesus Christ in the Golden State. He is looking to claim his first victim in the person of John MacArthur, the longtime pastor of Grace Community Church.
MacArthur is ignoring the latest edict from Gov. Newsom, which totally bans indoor worship services. However, Gov. Newsom’s diktat does not have the force of law, since he has zero legal authority to issue coercive mandates like this. We live in a republic, not a dictatorship, a fact that seems to have escaped the governor’s attention.
Most state legislatures have granted their governors temporary authority to issue emergency orders for obvious reasons – an emergency may be sudden and unforeseen and require some kind of government intervention until the legislature can convene to deal with it. These emergency orders typically expire after 30 days, and must be renewed by the state legislature or the governor’s emergency authority lapses. Newsom’s 30 days ran out a long time ago.
So, he may think he can act with emperor-like power over the church, but he can’t. Not in America.
He has compounded his problem by targeting MacArthur’s church for mean-spirited reprisal. The church has been operating its parking lot on a long-term lease with Los Angeles County, a lease that has been in effect for 45 years with no problems. The governor has evidently decided that if he cannot shut the church down, he’ll just evict it. The church has until the end of September to abandon the parking lot or the county will sweep in and confiscate everything on it that isn’t nailed down.
There is no policy reason for this. It is simple spite and vengeance on the part of this childish governor.
Grace Community has continued to meet indoors and in-person despite the governor’s flatly illegal and unconstitutional fatwa. The reason is simple: Gavin Newsom is not the head of the church, Jesus Christ is, and the Head of the church has commanded His church to meet: “… Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Governor Newsom says to the church, you can’t meet. Christ, the Head of the church, says you must. MacArthur’s decision is the same as that of the first century church: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The gravest problem for Newsom is that his edict is plainly unconstitutional according to both the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of the state of California. The Founders protected religious liberty as the very first right in the entire Bill of Rights. It was the right they sought to protect as the first and highest order of business. The federal government is flatly and unambiguously prohibited by the First Amendment from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. That’s not freedom of belief, mind you, that’s freedom of exercise. That’s the freedom to practice your faith without government restriction.
Governor Newsom has prohibited John MacArthur and his entire flock from freely exercising their faith, the very thing government is not allowed to do in America. The reason there even is an America is that our nation’s founders fled to these shores for refuge from the tyrant King George who presumed to tell his citizens when and where and how they could meet to worship God.
There are some people – and I am one of them, as is Justice Clarence Thomas – who believe that the First Amendment is a restriction only on the federal government – “Congress shall make no law.” But an activist Supreme Court has interpreted it as a prohibition on religious liberty restrictions by any government entity at any level, based on the so-called Incorporation Doctrine.
But even if we are wrong when we say that the First Amendment applies only to the federal government, the constitution of the state of California obviously applies, and Newsom is in even bigger trouble with his own state constitution. It declares, “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed” (Article I, Sec. 4).
The governor is blatantly discriminating against the church of Christ by allowing other large public gatherings for supposedly “peaceful” protests against perceived racism, but not allowing the church to conduct genuinely peaceful protests against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The governor is without a legal or constitutional leg to stand on.
Article VI of the federal constitution says the Constitution is “the supreme law of the land.” Thus, the supreme law of the land says Grace Community gets to freely exercise its Christian faith. That law outranks Newsom’s illegal edicts all day, every day.
Bottom line: Pastor John MacArthur is the one who is submitting to the supreme law of the land, and following it to the letter. The tyrant governor of California is not. John MacArthur is obeying the law. Governor Newsom is the one who is breaking it.