A pair of high-profile attorneys are representing a California pastor in his battle to hold worship services, despite local and state orders against large gatherings.

The Thomas More Society has announced that Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri will represent Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California, as special counsel.

“It’s not John MacArthur who is defying the U.S. Constitution or the law,” Jenna Ellis told OneNewsNow. “It’s the state of California that is violating their constitutional obligation to preserve and protect churches and our free exercise of religion and our freedom of assembling together.”

State and local officials want people and organizations, including non-profits such as churches, to avoid gatherings in large numbers. The stated reason is that it will combat the spread of COVID-19. But speaking on The Todd Starnes Show, MacArthur said it’s not as big as threat today as people were told a few months ago, and the church has been taking steps to clean and sanitize the facilities.

“There have been 9,000 people out of 40 million in California who have died, and half of them are over 80 and have all kinds of health issues,” said MacArthur. “So, our members know the statistical reality that you have a 99.99% chance of not being affected by this, and certainly not in a deadly way.”

MacArthur said that thousands of people have been returning to services, adding they were not told to do so. During the spring, MacArthur was preaching to empty auditoriums while Grace Community Church and other places of worship temporarily closed and shifted toward online services.

“We have received essentially a cease-and-desist letter from the County of Los Angeles, from a private attorney for the county, threatening a $1,000 daily fine or even arrest and up to 90 days in jail,” Ellis told OneNewsNow.

“Whether or not they actually try to enforce that, we don’t think that would be legally binding or viable for them, but that was a threat that they did receive in the form of a lengthy letter from the county.

“It’s our hope that we can resolve this favorably and that the city and county would recognize that they’re overstepping – but I just want to be very clear that his heart here is one of he will stand firm, he is a warrior for truth, and he will stand firm for the truth of God over anything else,” said Ellis about Pastor MacArthur.