Attorney General Bill Barr will reportedly take “action” next week against local governments that have singled out religious organizations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services. While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!” DOJ Director of Communications Kerri Kupec tweeted on Saturday.
During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services. While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!— KerriKupecDOJ (@KerriKupecDOJ) April 12, 2020
Some churches have faced pushback from local authorities as they got creative in trying to hold services, including drive-ins where there was no direct contact with others.
In Mississippi for example, more than 20 churchgoers from the Temple Baptist Church were fined $500 for attending a drive-in service Wednesday evening.
On Friday, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of the church, challenging Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons' executive order.
"Government is clearly overstepping its authority when it singles out churches for punishment, especially in a ridiculous fashion like this,” said ADF senior counsel Ryan Tucker. “In Greenville, you can be in your car at a drive-in restaurant, but you can't be in your car at a drive-in church service. That's not only nonsensical, it's unconstitutional, too."
Similar situations are happening across the U.S.
Kentucky Democrat Governor Andy Beshear said last week he’d send law enforcement to churches this weekend to record the license plates of those who attend Easter services, forcing them into a two-week quarantine.
“This is the only way that we can ensure that your decision doesn’t kill somebody else,” Beshear said. “...What we’re asking you to do is not to harm other people. It’s to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Republicans quickly pushed back.
“Taking license plates at church? Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted Friday night.
“What the actual hell?” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said on Twitter, sharing the same article as Paul about the governor’s plan.
“The same week Jews celebrate freedom from bondage and Christians celebrate freedom from death, Governor Beshear is going to be in your church parking lot scanning your license plate,” Massie said on Facebook.
There are more than 530,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of Sunday morning and 20,608 deaths.