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Videos: Police force drive-in church goers to leave, threaten $500 fines in Mississippi

People attend a drive-in Easter service at the Church of Our Savior Church amid the Coronavirus outbreak on April 12, 2020, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/TNS)
April 13, 2020

Churchgoers in one Mississippi city sought to continue their church services in-person with a drive-in style option, but the local government banned all in-person worship and threatened violators with fines.

The city council of Greenville, Miss. and Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons issued an executive order that banned all in-person church services, effective from April 7 until Missouri Gov. Tate Reeves lifts the state’s stay-at-home order. Fox News reported many churches planned to drive-in services as a means of negotiating the need for social distancing with in-person services, especially during Easter week. Some of those churches were confronted by police who informed them that drive-in church services are in fact included in Greenville’s ban.

Rev. James Hamilton of the King James Baptist Church tried to hold a drive-in service, but police arrived to break up the service.

“We were abiding by the CDC [U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” Hamilton said in a Friday appearance on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Hamilton said, “Members of the church were inside their cars, had their windows up, and I was preaching the Word of God. So no one was outside, and also we had cars at a distance.”

The Temple Baptist Church also raised opposition to the city of Greenville’s ban on in-person church services and filed a lawsuit against the city’s executive order, with the help of attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Attendees at both the King James Bible Baptist Church and the Temple Baptist Church were threatened with $500 fines if they did not disperse from the service. An attendee at one of the church services filmed video of officers going from vehicle to vehicle, tapping on their windows and giving them the opportunity to disperse or face the $500 fine.

On Saturday, Magnolia State Live reported the Temple Baptist Church planned to push forward with Easter Sunday services despite the ban on in-person services.

On Friday, Gov. Reeves retweeted video of the Greenville church services being broken up and said, “If you send police after worshippers trying to social distance, you are going to have Mississippians revolt. I’ve asked all pastors not to hold these services—but we ordered churches safe from these outrageous actions. Don’t trample the constitution.”