The mayor of Greenville, Mississippi better have a good attorney — because he’s ticked off Attorney General William Barr.
The mayor directed city police to raid a drive-in prayer meeting at Temple Baptist Church. The mostly elderly congregation was slapped with $500 fines for violating the city’s ban on mass gatherings.
Today the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest in support of the church’s lawsuit against the city.
“The City of Greenville fined congregants $500 per person for attending these parking lot services – while permitting citizens to attend nearby drive-in restaurants, even with their windows open,” the Attorney General said in a statement. “The City appears to have thereby singled churches out as the only essential service (as designated by the state of Mississippi) that may not operate despite following all CDC and state recommendations regarding social distancing.”
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The Attorney General vowed to ensure that religious freedom remains protected during the pandemic.
“Religion and religious worship continue to be central to the lives of millions of Americans. This is true more so than ever during this difficult time. The pandemic has changed the ways Americans live their lives,” the attorney general said. “Religious communities have rallied to the critical need to protect the community from the spread of this disease by making services available online and in ways that otherwise comply with social distancing guidelines.”
Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, praised the Attorney General’s statement. First Liberty represents King James Bible Baptist Church in Greenville as well as On Fire Christian Church in Kentucky.
“We welcome Attorney General Barr’s defense of religious liberty during this critical time. In too many instances, as religious Americans have sought to abide by important public health guidelines during this pandemic they have been singled out for restrictions that go beyond what the CDC requires,” Shackelford told the Todd Starnes Radio Show. We are grateful to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice for assisting in the defense of religious liberty for all Americans.”
Attorney General William P. Barr Issues Statement on Religious Practice and Social Distancing; Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest in Mississippi Church Case https://t.co/Xn0PiVx7bD
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) April 14, 2020