Bill Barr Defends Religious Liberty

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from the American Spectator:

Drive-In Church Services Collide With Coronavirus Shutdowns

Attorney General William Barr (Shane T. McCoy/US Marshals)
On Easter Sunday my wife and I took a long and probably illegal drive through rural Virginia, where we saw many people practicing a pious form of social distancing.

Christians. Pastors in parking lots and fields, preaching through bullhorns and over loudspeakers to their parishioners seated in parked cars. We drove past about five of these churches, all of which were on the verge of committing a series of misdemeanors. For, while drive-in services do not violate Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order, if anyone were to get out of his or her car — that’s an illegal gathering.

The fear that someone will open a car door or roll down a window at a drive-in service has prompted some local governments to smack down faith communities with great zeal. In Greenville, Mississippi, Mayor Errick Simmons issued an order last Tuesday requiring that all churches — including drive-ins — shut down and move online.

The order didn’t sit well with the congregations at Temple Baptist Church or the King James Bible Church, and the two held services anyway the next day. At both services, congregants sat in their cars with their windows rolled up, while their pastors preached to them from a safe distance. And at both services, Greenville police showed up in droves to ticket them for breaking the law. The members of King James got off with a warning. Those who came to Temple Baptist were not so lucky: police issued a $500 fine for each offender.

Naturally, this did not please the pastors at either church, and so they took legal action. Pastor Charleston Hamilton at King James enlisted the help of the First Liberty Institute, a legal group that specializes in religious liberty cases, and sent a letter to Simmons asking him to rescind his order so that the church could hold Easter services without fear of retribution.

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