Warning from DOJ on unconstitutional violations of freedom of religion

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When Attorney General Bill Barr spoke with Laura Ingraham in an interview aired this week on her show, he made it clear that the Department of Justice was closely monitoring the loss of liberty during the pandemic. It appears he is about to act.

The Justice Department (DOJ) may take action next week against local governments that have gone too far in banning even drive-in religious services.

DOJ MAY STEP IN

A DOJ spokesperson said Saturday, “While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly [and] not single out religious [organizations],” DOJ Director of Communications Kerri Kupec tweeted.

She said Attorney General William Barr is “monitoring” such regulations.

CHURCHES STAND UP

In Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear told police to get the license plate numbers of anyone who attends any gathering of 10 or more for a church service. They will likely be fined. While he didn’t ban drive-in services, his order is very unpopular.

The Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, Greg Fischer, banned drive-in religious services specifically and told neighbors to snitch on anyone who plans or attends such a service.

The DOJ move would come as some churches are standing up to city governments that even prevent them from holding services in drive-in settings. Government officials are monitoring and fining them, and encouraging snitching.

A judge in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Mayor Greg Fischer’s ban on drive-in church services there.

“The Mayor’s decision is stunning,” District Judge Justin Walker, a former clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, wrote in a memorandum to the order. “And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional.”

Freedom of religion is the first of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” its text begins.

SINGLING OUT CHURCHES

Separately, in Greenville, Mississippi, two churches have said that police came to their drive-in services and ticketed worshipers — with $500 tickets.

“Churches are strongly encouraged to hold services via Facebook Live, Zoom, Free Conference Call, and any and all other social media, streaming and telephonic platforms,” Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons’ office said in an April 7 press release announcing a ban on in-person and drive-in church services.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom have filed a lawsuit challenging that order on behalf of the Temple Baptist Church in Greenville.

Kelly Shackelford, president of the First Liberty Institute, argued in an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Friday that the city’s order “is just massively unconstitutional.”

“It targets churches in a way that it targets no other group,” he said. “Cars in parking lots are fine. It’s only a crime if the cars in the parking lot are at the church parking lot.”

 


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