The US Department of Justice has been forced to intervene after a Mississippi church was slapped with fines for holding a drive-in service.
Pastor Arthur Scott of Temple Baptist Church had decided that the inventive worship services were fit-for-purpose considering the coronavirus restrictions. The police, however, disagreed.
Officers showed up to the service and issued $500 tickets to members for attending, prompting Pastor Scott to file a lawsuit against the City of Greenville.
Shortly afterward, Attorney General William Barr personally intervened, saying that the city "singled churches out as the only essential service (as designated by the state of Mississippi) that may not operate despite following all state recommendations regarding social distancing."
Barr added: "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 DOJ has filed a Statement of Interest to back Temple Baptist Church.
Members of the church said they were fined for sitting in their cars (with their windows fully up) and listening to pastor Scott preach through a radio frequency. Scott explained that the reason he made his sermon available on the local airwaves was because many of his members do not have access to modern technology. "The reason we do this is to reach those without smartphones," the pastor said during his Easter sermon.
"A lot of our congregation is an older congregation and so they have no access to the internet. We care about reaching all people with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and in particular those in our very own backyard.”
Scott added that the suit was filed "to protect our fundamental freedoms."
He said: "Our fundamental right to worship our Lord and Saviour. This has absolutely nothing to do with monetary gain. This has everything to do with our freedom. Nothing more, nothing less."
Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons has since rescinded the fines issued to the Temple Baptist members.
The Mayor has also said that he is seeking “definitive guidance” from Governor Tate Reeves’ office on the matter. In the meantime, the ban on drive-in services will remain in effect.