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It’s official: the Department of Justice has put states discriminating against churches on notice.
Kerri Kupec, the spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Barr, issued a statement on Twitter: “Expect action from DOJ next week!”
Tensions were high all of Holy Week leading towards Easter, which is arguably the most important holiday in the Christian calendar.
States and cities have attempted to ban churches from even having drive-in meetings, where congregants stay in their individual vehicles.
On church in Mississippi even had its members fined $500 per car for attending the service.
Now, AG Barr appears poised to step-in in defense of the First Amendment.
More details on this late breaking news below:
Remember, the U.S. Constitution supersedes all the edicts issued by local and state officials.
It appears that Attorney General Barr is preparing to remind Democratic leaders of that fact.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the First Amendment.
While many churches have turned to online formats using Zoom or YouTube, many have creatively used drive-in services so that congregants can gather in proximity to each other without jeopardizing their health.
Everyone at a drive-in service stays in their car.
Fox News has more details on the actions Barr is expected to announce next week:
The Justice Department (DOJ) may take action next week against local governments that have cracked down on religious services as widespread parts of the country are shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, a DOJ spokesperson said Saturday.
“While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly [and] not single out religious [organizations],” DOJ Director of Communications Kerri Kupec tweeted.
She said the Attorney General William Barr is “monitoring” such regulations.
The DOJ move would come as some churches are standing up to city governments that have blocked them from holding in-person services during the outbreak -- even in "drive-in" formats that keep people separated and in their own cars.
A judge in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Mayor Greg Fischer’s ban on drive-in church services there.
“The Mayor’s decision is stunning,” District Judge Justin Walker, a former clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, wrote in a memorandum to the order. “And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional.”
Freedom of religion is the first of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” its text begins.
Separately, in Greenville, Miss., two churches have said that police came to their drive-in services and threatened to fine worshipers.
“Churches are strongly encouraged to hold services via Facebook Live, Zoom, Free Conference Call, and any and all other social media, streaming and telephonic platforms,” Mayor Errick Simmons’ office said in an April 7 press release announcing a ban on in-person and drive-in church services.
While Democrat leaders are attempting to block churches from gathering in any capacity, they're releasing criminals from jails and prisons.
The logic, they say, is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in jails.
Many people feel that law abiding citizens who are exercising their Constitutionally protected First Amendment right are being punished while criminals are being set free.
Every day Americans aren't the only ones worried about Constitutional rights being infringed.
Many Republicans in DC have raised their concerns.
The Hill reports that the House Freedom Caucus Chairman wrote a letter to Trump, Pence, and Barr warning about the eroding of Constitutional rights:
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) raised concerns that restrictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic are infringing on Americans' religious freedom.
In a letter sent to President Trump, Vice President Pence and Attorney General William Barr on Saturday, the lawmakers said they understand the reason behind social distancing practices put in place, but they feel with the right precautions, people should not be restricted from gathering at places of worship.
“We write to you out of great concern for the right to religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governors and local leaders around the country have issued orders of varying restrictions on their communities to slow the spread of the virus,” they wrote.
“Calling on individuals to have greater awareness of their environments, keep reasonable distance from others, and strive to maintain better hygiene may all be warranted as we continue to confront the many unknowns of this virus. Prohibitions on worship have no place in these restrictions.”
The lawmakers underscored that some of these precautions are impinging on people's First Amendment rights.
Bill Barr has consistently defended the Constitution and shares many of the same princples as the president.
While President Trump is focused on draining the swamp, Barr is focused on making sure that the law as provided by the Constitution is observed.
Trump campaigned on a promise of law and order, and AG Barr is helping make sure that that applies to citizens as well as the states and localities that govern them.