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California megachurch draws thousands at in-person services defying state coronavirus orders

The pastor of a megachurch in Los Angeles defended the church’s decision to allow thousands in for services Sunday, defying California state orders amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Grace Community Church held in-person services on Sunday, and pastor John MacArthur told CNN that 6,000 or 7,000 people showed up. 

The crowd size defies a state order released at the end of July that limits indoor attendance at a place of worship to 25 percent of a building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. 

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Asked about his disregard of coronavirus restrictions, MacArthur dismissed the responsibility for him to follow such guidelines. 

“When we look inside of your church, it is indoors, as you said, there’s thousands of people, there is absolutely no social distancing, there [are] no masks. Why not get creative, so you can obey, as you put it ‘god's law,’ but also obey public health regulations?” CNN’s Brianna Keilar asked the pastor

MacArthur responded that the church had been creative, putting a tent up in an overflow area and a screen in the middle of a large patio, but he said both areas filled up and people poured into the worship center. 

“We don't orchestrate this, this is a church. We don't ask people to make a reservation to come to church,” he said. 

Pressed on his decision to open the doors, he said he wasn't going to have people “standing outside in a mob.” 

“We opened the doors because that's what we are, we're a church and we’re going to trust those people to make adult decisions about the reality of their physical and spiritual health and how that balance works for each one of them," he said. "Nobody's forcing anything, they're here because they want to be here."

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MacArthur called the restrictions on places of worship put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus “not constitutional” and “burdensome,” and argued they make “no sense in light of the actual numbers of death” members of his church are seeing. 

The Los Angeles County health department reported 2,428 new coronavirus cases and 58 new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the country total to 200,802 cases and 4,763 deaths. 

Statewide, California reported a total of 586,056 COVID-19 cases and 10,648 fatalities as of Wednesday.