The Justice Department has decided to back a Virginia church suing Gov. Ralph Northam after police threatened pastor Kevin Wilson with prison time or a $2,500 fine for violating the state's coronavirus lockdown restrictions, Fox News reported on Sunday.
Wilson, the pastor of Lighthouse Fellowship Church, conducted a service last month on Palm Sunday with 16 people attending - all were spaced further than 6 feet apart from one another in a church that holds 293 people, according to CBN News.
However, the restrictions state that only 10 people could attend services.
Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, who is representing Wilson, said "There is not a 'one-size-fits-all' template that works for every church. We need to balance the First Amendment with protecting the health and welfare of people. Using an arbitrary number of 10 people for every church is not the answer."
Churches have been encouraged to hold virtual services, but Wilson's church said it did not have the means to do that and many parishioners have no access to the Internet. The church is known, according to CBN, for helping keep people free of drug addiction, mental illness, poverty, and other problems, and those members are dependent on other congregants for rides to get food, supplies, and medical appointments.
The DOJ said that “Virginia has offered no good reason for refusing to trust congregants who promise to use care in worship in the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and other workers to do the same,” according to Fox News.
Matthew Schneider, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said that "unlawful discrimination against people who exercise their right to religion violates the First Amendment, whether we are in a pandemic or not."
Brian Freeman ✉
Brian Freeman, a Newsmax writer based in Israel, has more than three decades writing and editing about culture and politics for newspapers, online and television.
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