The mayor of Greenville, Mississippi said Monday that he has waived the $500 tickets that were issued to Temple Baptist Church congregants at an April 8 drive-in church service, CBN News reports.
Grenville Mayor Errick Simmons’ announcement comes after he initially approved an executive order on April 7 that prohibits drive-in services until the state’s shelter-in-place is lifted.
Reports say eight Greenville police officers issued $500 tickets to congregants who refused to leave a parking lot where Temple Baptist Church was having a drive-in service on April 8. Church members were parked in the church’s parking lot with their windows rolled up, listening to a sermon broadcast.
The story about the tickets received national attention with many saying the fines were unnecessary and unfair. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves released a statement on Facebook as well, saying, “Don’t trample the Constitution. Please use sense, everybody.”
Simmons said the order limiting gatherings to 10 people or less remains in place, but he said he has asked the governor’s office to provide more direction on how to handle drive-in church services.
"What we're asking for is definitive guidance regarding drive-in and parking lot services, that's what the issue is," Simmons said.
After the pastor of King James Bible Baptist Church in Greenville appeared on national TV to discuss the mayor’s prohibition on drive-in services, Simmons said he was not “targeting” churches.
“This smear campaign full of lies about my beliefs are unfounded,” he said. “To publicly state this mayor is targeting a church is unacceptable and reprehensible.”
The attorney for King James Bible Baptist Church pastor Charleston Hamilton, however, disagrees.
"Mayor Simmons was repeatedly pressed about whether churches who abide by CDC guidelines and host drive-in church will face the specter of the police arriving on the scene to disperse those peaceably assembled in worship. Rather than reassure his churches that this will not happen, the mayor reaffirmed his unlawful order," he said.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.