BREAKING NEWS Officer-involved shooting at Verona Convenience Store Full Story

Mayor: Drive-in church, with windows up, OK during pandemic

Facing two freedom-of-religion lawsuits and pushback from the U.S. attorney general, a Mississippi mayor said Wednesday that people may attend drive-in church services during the coronavirus pandemic but they must keep their windows up.

Posted: Apr 15, 2020 7:26 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Facing two freedom-of-religion lawsuits and pushback from the U.S. attorney general, a Mississippi mayor said Wednesday that people may attend drive-in church services during the coronavirus pandemic but they must keep their windows up.

Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons also said local churches may allow up to 10 people at a time in a building for worship services that are shown online or carried on TV or radio, as long as those inside the church follow public health guidelines to maintain a safe distance from one another.

Greenville leaders enacted a local order April 7 that said all churches in the city would be closed for in-person and drive-in services as long as Gov. Tate Reeves's statewide stay-at-home order remains in place to combat the spread of the virus. The governor's order does not restrict types of worship.

The day after Greenville leaders set the local order, police issued $500 tickets to several people attending drive-in church services. Some who were ticketed said the city was violating their First Amendment right to worship.

Simmons said Monday that the city would not make people pay the $500 tickets — and he also said he had received death threats over the city's order. The Democratic mayor said he wanted the Republican governor to give clear guidance about how the statewide stay-at-home order affects religious services.

Reeves has said during public appearances in the past two weeks that he does not believe government can ban religious services, but he has also asked pastors and other religious leaders to hold worship services online rather than in person because of the pandemic.

Simmons said Reeves provided clear guidance about worship services Wednesday during a call with mayors.

“The governor stated today ... for the very first time that drive-in church services where families stay in their cars with windows up are safe,” Simmons said.

During a news conference Wednesday in Jackson, Reeves said that Greenville police made people roll down their windows at drive-in church services to be ticketed.

“The actions taken by an over-burdensome government actually put more people at risk,” Reeves said.

A conservative legal group called Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging the Greenville order as unconstitutional. On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr took the rare step of filing papers to side with those suing the city. Reeves tweeted thanks to Barr “for this strong stand in support of religious liberty."

A similar lawsuit against the city was filed Wednesday by First Liberty Institute, and it is backed by a group that opposes many government regulations, the Mississippi Justice Institute.

An attorney for First Liberty Institute, Jeremy Dys, issued a statement Wednesday thanking Reeves and Simmons “for recognizing the importance of protecting religious liberty by clarifying that drive-in church services are allowed during this difficult time.”

The governor's statewide stay-at-home order took effect the evening of April 3 and is currently set to expire Monday morning. Reeves said Wednesday that he could decide in the next couple of days whether he will extend the order.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within a few weeks. For some, it can cause more severe illness and even death.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 51°
Columbus
Mostly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 52°
Oxford
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 50°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather