Mississippi church sues police after congregants ticketed during drive-in service

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A Mississippi church is suing the city of Greenville after police shut down its drive-in service this week in accordance with a city ban on the practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of the Temple Baptist Church. The filing challenges Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons' April 7 executive order that prohibits drive-in church services until a statewide shelter-in-place order is lifted.

The suit comes after eight uniformed Greenville police officers reportedly issued $500 tickets to congregants who refused to leave a parking lot where a drive-in service was being conducted Wednesday, the ADF said in a statement announcing the legal challenge.

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The group contends that church congregants stayed in their cars with their windows rolled up while listening to Pastor Arthur Scott preach from inside the empty Go Church building.

“Government is clearly overstepping its authority when it singles out churches for punishment, especially in a ridiculous fashion like this,” said ADF senior counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “In Greenville, you can be in your car at a drive-in restaurant, but you can’t be in your car at a drive-in church service. That’s not only nonsensical, it’s unconstitutional, too.”

The Greenville Police Department and Simmons' office did not immediately return calls from Fox News for comment Friday.

The church has been conducting the services for the past three weeks in accordance with social distancing rules, the ADF said. Simmons' ban orders church buildings closed for in-person and drive-in services.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, makes no such mention in his shelter-in-place order. Simmons met with local religious leaders Thursday to discuss the ban and most agreed with his executive order, the city posted on its Facebook account.

The Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., filed a legal challenge to Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons’ order banning drive-in church services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., filed a legal challenge to Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons’ order banning drive-in church services amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Google Maps)

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Religious services have become somewhat of a contentious issue as governments prohibit large gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, is suing top state Republican lawmakers after they voted to overturn her executive order banning large gatherings in churches.