A Mississippi Church has filed a lawsuit against the city of Greenville, claiming that the city has overstepped its authority and directly violated its First Amendment rights.
Greenville police issued $500 tickets to congregants who attended a drive-in service.
Church members were able to listen to the service and worship without having to leave their cars.
The drive-in service took place in the church’s parking lot, where members were able to come and gather, but still practice social distancing by staying in their own vehicles.
Yet Greenville police officers showed up and issued $500 tickets for those exercising their right to worship.
More details on the lawsuit below:
Many elderly congregants were in attendance.
These are the people most likely to be seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they came to attend the worship service so they could celebrate Holy Week with each other, even at a distance.
It is being reported that everyone was listening in their cars, participating in the service from the safety of their own vehicles.
Fox News has more details on the church's legal challenge to the city:
A Mississippi church is suing the city of Greenville after police shut down its drive-in service this week in accordance with a city ban on the practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of the Temple Baptist Church. The filing challenges Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons' April 7 executive order that prohibits drive-in church services until a statewide shelter-in-place order is lifted.
The suit comes after eight uniformed Greenville police officers reportedly issued $500 tickets to congregants who refused to leave a parking lot where a drive-in service was being conducted Wednesday, the ADF said in a statement announcing the legal challenge.
The group contends that church congregants stayed in their cars with their windows rolled up while listening to Pastor Arthur Scott preach from inside the empty Go Church building.
“Government is clearly overstepping its authority when it singles out churches for punishment, especially in a ridiculous fashion like this,” said ADF senior counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “In Greenville, you can be in your car at a drive-in restaurant, but you can’t be in your car at a drive-in church service. That’s not only nonsensical, it’s unconstitutional, too.”
The Greenville Police Department and Simmons' office did not immediately return calls from Fox News for comment Friday.
It is clear that the members of the church did not pose a danger to each other or themselves.
While there has been a ban on gatherings, the church still practiced social distancing.
Furthermore, there have been drive-in movie theaters across the country that have been airing movies without any issue.
Some observers ask: what made the church service unacceptable?
Two churches in Greenville have had their drive-in services ticketed.
First it was Temple Baptist Church.
Then the church across the street, King James Baptist Bible Church, reported the same issues.
Local WLBT has more details on the litigation efforts:
Drive-in church services in Greenville are creating conflict in the city.
“Not everything is worth fighting for but this is worth fighting for. And so we’re going to stand on it,” said Lee Gordon.
He is a Washington County supervisor and a longtime member of Temple Baptist Church.
As the virus pandemic runs its course, the church has tried to run a drive-in service using a radio frequency that can only be heard within a block from the church. Their Wednesday service was shut down by local police.
“The police started coming up and we said, well, we think we’re in our rights. And they started issuing tickets, $500 tickets, it may have been 50 -- I mean 20 to 30 tickets. Everybody got one, it wasn’t per car. Me and my wife was both in the car together and both of us got tickets," said Gordon.
A similar problem developed just a few streets away at King James Baptist Bible Church. Their pastor is suing the mayor under the representation of the First Liberty Institute.
“We’ve sent a letter to the mayor saying that order is unconstitutional, illegal and must be withdrawn," said Jeremy Dys.
He is part of the special counsel for litigation and communication at First Liberty Institute.
It has been reported that Temple Baptist Church intends to move forwards with plans to celebrate with drive-in services on Easter Sunday.
Will the police show up again with $500 tickets?
It's certainly a tense situation, and many eyes will be watching to see what happens and where the boundaries of government interference will be drawn.