The Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi has filed a lawsuit against the city after city police officers started issuing $500 tickets to congregants who refused to leave a parking lot where the church was holding a drive-in service.
The church had been conducting the services for the past three weeks in accordance with social distancing rules, where attendees are required to remain in their cars in the church parking lot at all times with their windows rolled up and spaced consistent with CDC guidelines.
The Justice Department’s intervention comes after the church filed a lawsuit with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), challenging Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons’ April 7 executive order that prohibits drive-in church services until a statewide shelter-in-place order is lifted.
In the statement of interest obtained exclusively by Fox News on Tuesday, the Justice Department said the U.S. regularly files statements of interest on “important issues of religious liberty in courts at every level, from trial courts to the Supreme Court of the United States.” It noted that Attorney General Bill Barr has “issued comprehensive guidance interpreting religious-liberty protections” under the Constitution.
The Justice Department’s intervention in the Mississippi case also comes after a federal judge, in a similar case, sided with a church in Kentucky.
On Fire Christian Church had sued mayor of Louisville, Ky. Greg Fischer and the city after Fischer announced drive-in style religious gatherings were not allowed on Easter.
U.S. District Judge Justin Walker sided with the church, saying that the city is prohibited from “enforcing; attempting to enforce; threatening to enforce; or otherwise requiring compliance with any prohibition on drive-in church services at On Fire.”
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