A church in Virginia is suing Gov. Ralph Northam after he issued an executive order that prohibits the church from holding services with more than 10 people.
On April 5, Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island held a service in which 16 people gathered. The building holds 293, and the people were spaced apart according to CDC social distancing directives.
However, police threatened Pastor Kevin Wilson with jail time and a possible $2,500 fine for opening the building to more than 10 people
Ironically, Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe's in the state allowed hundreds of people to gather in their buildings on the very same day with no police action.
The church is not alone in its lawsuit against the state. The Department of Justice has issued a Statement of Interest in a Virginia federal court, citing the governor's infringement of the Constitution's First Amendment protections.
Matthew Schneider, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in the statement, "Unlawful discrimination against people who exercise their right to religion violates the First Amendment, whether we are in a pandemic or not."
Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, added to the statement: "The Commonwealth of 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 a FoxNews.com article, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, representing the pastor, accused Northam, a Democrat, of discriminating against the church and violating the First Amendment. "As important as it is that we stay safe during these challenging times, it is also important for states to remember that we do not abandon all of our freedoms in times of emergency," he said.
AFA has monitored numerous instances around the country where overzealous, liberal governors have unsuccessfully attempted to shut down churches and intimidate pastors and congregants in clear violation of the First Amendment.
Sign our petition supporting Pastor Kevin Wilson and Lighthouse Fellowship Church for standing up to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s bogus rules and threats.