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Church Intimidated by Police for ‘Drive-in Church’ Files Federal Lawsuit Against Mayor, City

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April 15, 2020

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4.15.20
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Hamilton

Pastor Charleston Hamilton, Jr. of First Liberty Client King James Bible Baptist Church preaches while police officers from Greenvile, MS surround church members gathered for drive-in church on April 9, 2020. Photo credit: FirstLiberty.org

Church Intimidated by Police for ‘Drive-in Church’ Files Federal Lawsuit Against Mayor, City
Mayor Errick Simmons’s order singles out churches abiding by CDC Guidelines

Greenville, MS—First Liberty Institute today filed a federal lawsuit against Greenville, Mississippi Mayor Errick Simmons on behalf of its client, King James Bible Baptist Church (“KJBBC”) seeking to invalidate his unconstitutional order prohibiting CDC compliant drive-in church services.  Last week, the entire police force showed up prior to KJBBC’s service to intimidate and disperse Pastor Charles Hamilton, Jr. and his parishioners.  The church is represented by First Liberty, WilmerHale, Mississippi Justice Institute, and Sean Callaghan.

You can read First Liberty’s complaint here.

“Mayor Errick Simmons’ order singles out churches for law enforcement,” said Jeremy Dys, Special Counsel for Litigation and Communications at First Liberty.  “The Constitution did not give the Mayor a doctor’s note to do as he wishes.  Government officials cannot send in the police just because a car is parked on a church parking lot instead of a liquor store.”

“The authority of any mayor is always subject to constitutional rights,” said Matthew Martens, partner at WilmerHale. “Even in emergencies, religious liberty does not evaporate in the face of the police power of state.”

In its petition, attorneys with First Liberty explain that, “By denying Plaintiff the ability to assembly via a drive-in church service, Defendants are in violation of the Freedom of Assembly Clause. Defendants cannot meet the no-less-restrictive-alternative test. The CDC’s social distancing guidelines are appropriate to limit the spread of COVID-19. Imposing more restrictive requirements that target only churches and their drive-in services is not the least restrictive means of achieving Defendants’ public safety goal.”

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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