Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs: Are The Posted Liability Waivers On Grace’s Doors Enforceable?
When I was a Freshman at the Master’s College, we went to a taping of a television show. It was exciting. I had never been to a taping and going with a large group of new friends was going to be amazing, the start of that “College Experience” everyone talked about. Well, I remember we went to NBC studios, signed a waiver, and were paid $20 for our troubles. As luck would have it, there were some interesting guests and when the host came out to speak to the audience, he asked if anyone had any questions. Don’t ever give me that green light. I stood up and the host and Harrison Ford looked at me. I think I said something along the lines of loving Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but I asked him what movies did he regret making. He grimaced and said something along the lines that “every movie was a learning experience”, to which I replied, “Really? Even the ridiculous plot of the Crystal Skull? I’m sure the only lesson taken there is to never work with Shia LeBoeuf again.” The audience roared and they cut for break.
Signing waivers for something so innocent as appearing on television protects the network from lawsuits. It’s commonplace. They don’t imagine that anyone would ever sue because they were on television, but just imagine if you were on a comedy show and in an audience where they chose to really “take the mick” out of you. If you were injured or humiliated, you might feel so inclined to sue the network, but if you signed a waiver, you would have an impossible time trying to find an attorney.
So, it was a curious thing to show up at Grace Community Church yesterday to find posted “liability waivers” on the Worship Center and throughout the campus, basically any building where they believed people would be. It is; however, always a “red flag” when you see these waivers because it is a desperate, not to mention ill-advised, attempt to prevent lawsuits. You are in essence saying, “ok, look, what we are doing here is not right. It is against the law and by entering this building, you are taking on risk, too, as few of us have masks and there are no social distancing measures whatsoever. You understand this and by your presence, you release the church from any liability, now or in the future”. I can just hear the lawyers sharpening their Allen Edmonds loafers (made in America), lying in wait for the line of litigants that will inevitably pour into their offices (virtually) to sue that little church in California that was unspeakably recklessly, negligent in their duty to protect their congregation. It will be a ground-breaking case when it eventually goes to trial. I highly doubt Grace Community Church has that level of liability insurance reserved for the likes of Apple and Disney.
Let’s break this down. In California, a July 19th mandate from Gavin Newsom did state that indoor operations of several business types must cease, including “places of worship”. Now, John MacArthur and “Elders” want to turn this into a Constitutional matter and according to KTLA and CBSLA news segments, will be seeking legal remedies next week (which they won’t, more on that later) because they feel that the mandate is an overreach of power, a “Socialist takeover” and quite frankly, an abuse of power. Quite literally, takes one to know one.
One service is in the Worship Center and the other two are in the tents. It’s funny how every other church in California has learned to pivot and make a go at outdoor service, but Grace Community Church continues to find fights where there is none, shadow-boxing itself into oblivion. The LADPH wants them to comply, have every employee tested, and give them the personal information of every attendee. Not such an easy task, but Grace was telling everyone to be respectful of the inspectors last Sunday. It’s sort of sad that secular authorities care more for the well-being of people than a church that has been the epicenter of exposition, faith, and practice. I have worked with the LADPH in starting my restaurant and I always found them to be meticulous, hard-working, and friendly nerds.
The “waivers” posted on the doors printed on Grace Community Church letterhead are completely unenforceable. I’m not sure which fourth-grader came up with the idea to do that, but it’s not going to fly when some hapless father of three contracts COVID and is out of work for 6 months and can’t provide for his family believing the regurgitated Fox News reports that the “coronavirus does not hurt you” and that “masks do not work” coming out of the pulpit. As of August 10, 2020, Grace has still not posted the July 31st Chapel where John says that “children do not get COVID” and that it is “just the flu”.
“Don’t Sue Me, Bro”: 5 Reasons Why Grace Will Not and Should Not Sue the City of Los Angeles
Have you ever heard the expression, “there’s no honor among thieves?” It’s kind of like this situation. When you’re doing the wrong thing and make an enemy out of the Romans 13, God-ordained authorities, then go to the courts who are another enemy that God has ordained (“for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenge to execute wrath upon him that doe the evil. Rom. 13:4) and ask for…what exactly?
1) Old man Gracetti’s mask ordinance: Sun Valley, CA, is technically in the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles where you must use a face covering “every time you leave your home”. If you work, attend church either indoors or outdoors, at Grace Community church without wearing a mask, you are violating the City ordinance which has nothing to do with the Constitution and therefore, falls outside the scope of representation with their current legal team. I have never seen Grace Community Church address this at any level as it predates the California mandate of ceasing indoor operations.
2) Precedent: Whenever a judge decides on a case, they have to look to precedent. As luck would have it, during a pandemic the Governor is given special powers to set up enforcement of new laws to protect the people, similar to times of war or natural calamity. Now, whatever you believe to be true about the coronavirus, businesses, and consequently, churches, have a duty to prevent transmission of the virus and to put into practice any State and local guidelines for a time designated by those same authorities. Looking to precedent is easy, a Judge will immediately look at Grace’s “complaint”, laugh, and write a few paragraphs dismissing it because “we’re in a pandemic”. They will appeal and the next three judges will read, laugh, and ultimately, state something like, “we find that the previous judge ruled well when he (or she) stated in due part that…”. Case citations galore, 12 pages later and you discover that they will find for Gavin Newsome, again. The state will be emboldened and more right than it was when you started.
3) The Discovery Channel: When you file a lawsuit, as the Plaintiff you get to request documents and evidence of the other side and vice versa. So, if you have nothing to hide and have not been guilty of any other violations of the law, ordinance, or regulation, then Discovery is not a problem. In fact, it’s usually in Discovery where lawsuits are settled because you in essence show your cards to your opponent, and you either know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Litigation is expensive, so expensive, even if you are getting Jenna Ellis and Special Counsel all the way from San Diego, it’s going to cost time and money.
4) “Wanton Disregard”, “Reckless”, “Negligence” (puts envelope to turban): What are…the constant refrains found in the Answer from the city of Los Angeles?
I’ve been brushing up on my case law. I was reading about Criminal Negligence, you know, with a glass of red wine, light reading. I seriously could not find case law where a church or event ran headfirst into the shark-infested waters of gross negligence. Every business and entity is trying to comply, begrudgingly perhaps, but there is this sense that the consequences of being wrong about the coronavirus are far too high a risk. The idea of losing their business license, having their power shut-off is not a battle they want to wage (pun intended). Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham aren’t going to help you when things go sideways and the lawsuits start.
5) Papers please: It will expose that there was never a “cease and desist letter” calling for the arrest of John MacArthur from the City Attorney’s office. The last account I read, some “Conservative Christian” blog stating that they were calling at a max. Of 90 days in jail. Right. I have asked for the source from Franklin Graham, the Federalist, KTLA, CBSLA, Thomas More Society, and others, but no one has produced this letter or at least explained more about it. So much support could be rallied if they would just produce the letter. Maybe they did receive a letter with “possible” and potential consequences like fines, arrest, etc., but if the Elders unanimously voted, why aren’t all the Elders heading to La Pinta? C’mon, folks, if you honestly think they’re going to put an 81-year-old man in jail over this, think again.
I don’t know how much of this is for show, but it is becoming quite the three-ring circus. Lucky for them, they already have the tents, so send in the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re here.