First Liberty Institute demands Mississippi mayor to stop targeting CDC “drive-in” churchgoers

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A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

GREENVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – On Thursday, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to Greenville, Mississippi Mayor Errick Simmons urging him to withdraw an order that targets churches holding CDC compliant drive-in services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

First Liberty represents Pastor Charleston Hamilton and King James Bible Baptist Church (“KJBBC”) in Greenville.

“Protecting religious liberty is essential, even during a pandemic,” said Jeremy Dys, Special
Counsel for Litigation and Communications at First Liberty. “Americans can tolerate a lot, if it
means demonstrating love for their fellow man, but they will not—nor should not—tolerate
churchgoers being ticketed by the police for following CDC guidelines at church. This has to stop
now.”

According to First Liberty, Pastor Hamilton and KJBBC have followed the CDC guidelines for the COVID-19 crisis since it came to Mississippi.

Mayor Errick Simmons recently issued an order prohibiting drive-in services, leaving Hamilton and other church leaders in fear that their church members will be fined and criminally prosecuted for engaging in drive-in church services.

Below is the letter sent to Mayor Errick Simmons from First Liberty Institute:

“Your prohibition of religious gatherings of this type and
the ticketing of participants, regardless of the precautions taken, is forbidden under both federal
and Mississippi state law. Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Act (“MRFA”) prohibits government
officials from substantially burdening religious exercise without demonstrating that the
restriction imposed advances a compelling interest by the least restrictive means. The First
Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause imposes a similar standard when government action targets
religious exercise. We require Greenville, Mississippi to withdraw the unconstitutional order
that, disturbingly, targets religious exercise.”

First Liberty Institute

Click here for the full letter.

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