Update (1325ET): Judging by the following clip, faith may have won...
No virus is stronger than our God pic.twitter.com/RGQpMFvuWK— Jack M. Posobiec, IWO (@JackPosobiec) April 12, 2020
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No doubt this is will be a historic Easter Sunday unlike any other, with American Christians by and large watching services from home, whether online or on television, or also in some cases in their cars in church parking lots. Lockdowns across the nation have already triggered fierce 1st Amendment debates, to which states have in some cases responded very differently.
One Florida pastor late last month wound up in handcuffs after defying local authorities' orders to not hold a live church service, but in other states like Texas, governors have declared church an 'essential service' and reaffirmed that Bill of Rights 'freedom of religion' protections means police can't go in and shut services down.
But in Mississippi, not even 'drive-in' church is being allowed, in what will likely be seen by most American Christians as an example of severe legal overreach and breach of rights against a community clearly enacting health measures recommended by the CDC of social distancing. "Your rights are suspended," one police officer days ago told a local pastor who planned to hold modified drive-up services (see 1:20 mark below):
Video from Pastor Hamilton of King James Bible Baptist Church in Greenville, MS. Church tried the “drive-in” method of holding services & were targeted due to the Mayor issuing an order prohibiting such services. Watch as an officer tells the Pastor that his rights are suspended. pic.twitter.com/zLdT6Qd8ew— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) April 11, 2020
"Drive-in church services that attempt to adhere to social distancing guidelines by keeping worshipers physically apart from one another in their own cars will not be allowed this Easter Sunday in at least one Mississippi community, as the coronavirus crisis has left wide swaths of the country shut down," reports Fox News.
It happened in the city of Greenville, Miss., where King James Bible Baptist Church previously enacted this 'drive-in' format after a state-wide shelter in place order was issued by the governor early this month.
“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,” the mayor of Greenville said in an earlier directive.
But as Fox notes, the governor's order did not place a specific ban on drive-in services: "The Rev. James Hamilton of the King James Baptist Church in Greenville tried to hold a drive-in service anyway — and police arrived to shut it down, as seen in cellphone video he recorded."
The pastor can be seen confronting police who just before Good Friday services arrived with multiple squad cars to "warn" the church not to hold any services there, Easter included. The pastor in the video says the police "heard through the grapevine" the congregation was going to hold service at 6:30.
"Ain't breakin no law, ain't sellin no drugs, I'm just preaching the word of God - and look at all these police cars here. This is America, private property of a church," Pastor Hamilton says in the video.
The pastor was told in the confrontation that the city was ready to issue citations to any citizen that comes to the drive-in service.
At about the minute 1:20 mark a police officer actually approaches pastor Hamilton and asserts this astounding line:
"We got an order from the governor, yo rights are suspended."
"We got an order from the governor, your rights are suspended." - Lawless Cop— Wayne Gerald (@WayneGerald7) April 12, 2020
Since when did the MS governor declare martial law?
"Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions by a government"
UNalienable Rights can't be suspended.
In his response the pastor said, "We're talking about the Constitution - 1st and 2nd Ammendment - that was given to us by our forefathers!"
The police officer replied: "It can be suspended, by the military that's martial law."
Churchgoers were actually fined $500, according to local media:
Churchgoers who attended a drive-in service at a church in Greenville, Mississippi, were fined $500 for reportedly violating a curfew order from the mayor.
During Thursday night service at King James Bible Baptist Church, while parishoners sat in their vehicles listening to Pastor Charles Hamilton, Greenville Police surrounded the church parking lot.
The lawyer representing the pastor and the church, Jeremy Dys of Frist Liberty Institute, had this to say: “They park in their parking spaces, they keep their windows up, doors closed and they never get out of their cars as the CDC recommends.”
“Look, there’s no exception to the United States Constitution for a pandemic,” Dys said. “What Mayor Simmons has done is to apply an order without regard to equality, and he’s singled out churches, in particular.”
Likely, more such similar scenes will play out across America before the nation emerges from the current coronavirus lockdown, but many are asking: will it be the same America?