The United States Attorney General, William Barr, has threatened to take legal action against states who infringe on civil liberties through the issuing of coronavirus-related lockdown orders.
In a two-page memo this week, Barr effectively stated that the Department of Justice was on the side of protestors who believe that their freedoms are being unnecessarily inhibited by strict stay-at-home orders.
He wrote: “If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of Covid-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court."
Barr insisted that he "did not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public," but that the “Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”
Adding that the restrictions in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 had “required the imposition of extraordinary restrictions on all of our daily lives," Barr highlighted the plight of Christians who feel their right to worship has been unfairly impeded.
Even in “times of emergency, the First Amendment and federal law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers," he said.
As America's top lawyer, Barr has been a consistent supporter of religious freedom. Last month, he assured that The United States Department of Justice "will continue to ensure that religious freedom remains protected if any state or local government, in their response to Covid-19, singles out, targets, or discriminates against any house of worship for special restrictions."
Barr's comments come as a number of US churches have been filing lawsuits against their respective governing authorities for refusing to allow them to congregate. Last month, the DOJ backed a lawsuit issued by a Mississippi Baptist church challenging a local health restriction that banned their drive-in services; members had been issued with fines of $500 per person after the gathering was busted by police.
With the DOJ weighing in on their behalf, the authorities decided to rescind the fines and roll back their policy, allowing members to listen to their pastor preach on a low-power FM frequency radio in the church parking lot. The Mayor of Greenville, Mississipi, Mayor Errick Simmons, said that he would permit the activity with the proviso that congregants must keep their windows up at all times.