Two churches in Greenville have now seen local law enforcement come on their property to ticket congregants in their vehicles who were coming to participate in drive-in services following social distancing recommendations.
Mayor Errick Simmons and the Greenville City Council issued an executive order closing all church buildings and drive-in services closed on April 7th.
Following that order, Temple Baptist Church members listening to the service on their radio inside of their vehicles in the parking lot with the windows rolled up were ticketed $500 each when police officers gave them an opportunity to leave or be fined.
King James Bible Baptist Church saw a similar scene when over a dozen police officers arrived at their church before service began threatening to issue similar citations if they did not disband. However, cooler heads prevailed and the pastor later reported no tickets were issued.
These scenes were shared thousands of times on social media and drew the attention of nationally syndicated radio host Todd Starnes.
Starnes wrote of the instances, “What’s really disturbing is that this happened in Mississippi, not New York City or San Francisco. This happened in the buckle of the Bible Belt.”
“The mayor and the city council should be removed from office. Any police officer who stepped foot on church property should be fired,” Starnes added. “And the governor of the state of Mississippi should personally pardon any church member convicted of violating the emergency order.”
Governor Tate Reeves has now responded to the situation in Greenville, saying in a retweet of Starnes’ story, “If you send police after worshippers trying to social distance, you are going to have Mississippians revolt. I’ve asked all pastors not to hold these services—but we ordered churches safe from these outrageous actions. Don’t trample the constitution. Please use sense, everybody.”
If you send police after worshippers trying to social distance, you are going to have Mississippians revolt. I’ve asked all pastors not to hold these services—but we ordered churches safe from these outrageous actions. Don’t trample the constitution.
Please use sense, everybody. https://t.co/CtNtAUdNjr
— Governor Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) April 10, 2020
In a Facebook video Friday morning, Pastor Charles Hamilton with King James Bible Baptist Church commended the Governor’s stand. He also asked that while he disagrees with Mayor Simmons, people should not be name calling or using derogatory terms against him or the law enforcement officers.