Mississippi Mayor announced on Wednesday his intention to allow drive-in church services shortly after the Justice Department intervened in a lawsuit involving the ban of such services – as long as they keep their windows rolled up, Associated Press reports.
The mayor of Greenville, Miss., Errick D. Simmons’ reversal came after he faced backlash and legal battles over his decision to close churches as long as the state’s stay-at-home order remained in place.
Simmons said on a Facebook Live video people can now attend drive-in church services but must keep their windows up.
“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.”
The mayor also said he would allow churches to have up to 10 people in their buildings for worship services that are broadcast, but added that they must follow social distancing and health guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Greenville leaders put a local order in place on April 7 that said all churches in the city would be closed for in-person and drive-in services as the statewide stay-at-home order was in place, according to AP.
A day after the order, Greenville drew national headlines after it issued $500 tickets to people attending drive-in church services on grounds that they violated the April 7 order.
Simmons said he would not force attendees of the church to pay the $500 tickets but maintained the order.
Legal group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Greenville order. Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department filed a memo in support of the Mississippi church Tuesday.
Barr said the government “may not impose special restrictions” on religious gatherings.
“Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Barr said in a statement.