A Mississippi Mayor Dug in on Banning Drive-In Church Services, but Then Bill Barr's DOJ Stepped In

Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

President Donald J. Trump and VP Mike Pence look on as U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Monday, March 23, 2020. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

As we’ve documented extensively here at RedState, Democratic mayors and governors across the country are taking advantage of stay at home/shelter in place orders in their respective cities and states by way of infringing on the First and Second Amendment rights of American citizens under the guise of “protecting the people.”

One of the latest examples was out of Mississippi, where the mayor of Greenville dug his heels in on his April 7th executive order banning drive-in church services while the state’s shelter-in-place order was in effect.

Temple Baptist Church defied the order, and as a result congregants were actually ticketed to the tune of $500 each for attending church services in their cars the following Wednesday. The church sued on First Amendment grounds. The Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing them stated at the time that “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.”

Fast forward a week later, and Greenville’s Mayor Errick Simmons – an Obama-supporting Democrat – decided to back down. He claims he did so after a mayors conference call with the state’s Republican governor Tate Reeves in which the governor said it was okay to allow such services. But the more likely reason is because the Department of Justice, as had promised last week it would do in cases like these, stepped in in order to settle the matter:

A day after the Justice Department intervened on behalf of a local church in a lawsuit over a ban on drive-in services in Greenville, Miss., due to city COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the mayor now says such religious gatherings are allowed.

“Today, given the definitive guidance from the governor, in the city of Greenville we will allow drive-in and parking lot services in the city – so long as families stay in their cars with windows up,” Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said in a press conference Wednesday streamed over Facebook Live.

The Justice Department filed a statement of interest in support of the Temple Baptist Church on Tuesday, although Simmons, a Democrat, said the reversal came after a conversation with the state’s Republican governor Wednesday.

A similar situation began to unfold in Wilmington, North Carolina last week, after their police department declared that drive-in services were banned thanks to Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) March 30th executive order. But the PD backed down after lawyers got involved, armed with a March 31 letter from Gov. Cooper to the NC Sheriffs’ Association stating drive-in worship services were allowed provided everyone stayed in their vehicles.