Churches in Greenville will be allowed to continue drive-in church services without fear of fines after the city announced they were changing their ordinance banning such services.
Yesterday, the Mississippi Justice Institute (“MJI”), a non-profit constitutional litigation center and the legal arm of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, and First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans, announced a challenge to the city’s ban on drive-in church services. They are defending King James Bible Baptist Church. Last Thursday, members of the church were greeted by virtually every member of the Greenville police department and threatened with fines as they arrived for drive-in church services that evening.
“The Mississippi Justice Institute is proud to have stood with this church and Pastor Hamilton, and that so many other groups, individuals, and elected officials stood with them as well,” said MJI Director Aaron Rice. “We are happy that the City of Greenville has recognized the right of all Mississippians to worship in a way that is safe and consistent with their religious beliefs or practical needs.”
As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country, the church began hosting drive-in services in a manner consistent with Center for Disease Control and Mississippi Department of Health guidance. Members would stay in their cars with their windows closed. Traditional shouts of “Amen” or “Hallelujah” turned into flashing lights or honking horns.
While many churches have opted for live-stream services, this was the best option for many at the church, as several do not have social media accounts or the ability to connect online.
“We have to care about our constitutional rights,” said Rice. “Even during challenging times.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.