Church Members Fined $500 During Drive-in Church Service Despite Never Leaving Their Cars

As Christians prepare to celebrate Easter this Sunday, they may have to do so without attending a church service amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Easter, usually the busiest day of the year for churches throughout the country, might have to be held in people’s own homes via live streams or other methods as even going to a church parking lot could result in a fine.

The Delta Democrat-Times, a daily newspaper from Greenville, Mississippi, reports churchgoers at Temple Baptist Church in Greenville were issued $500 tickets after they tried to hold a service in the parking lot.

All the attendees remained in their respective vehicles and listened to Pastor Arthur Scott’s sermon on the radio, in what they thought was a creative way around health guidelines and subsequent restrictions.

“We’ve done these orders for the safety of our citizens,” Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said, highlighting reports from the Mississippi Department of Health and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.

From the Delta Democrat-Times:

The church, according to member Lee Gordon, has been using the radio broadcast for the last three weeks as part of the social-distancing recommendations from federal, state and local governments during the COVID-19, coronavirus epidemic.

Those social distancing mandates were strengthened with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves’ shelter-in-place order on April 3 and further strengthened with Mayor Simmons’ executive order on Tuesday.

The executive order further halted drive-in church meetings and encouraged those churches to use other means to communicate their message.

According to the report, the police arrived and encouraged people to leave the church. They then threatened any people who stayed with the $500 fine.

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Posted by Chris Owens on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Lee Gordon, who has been a member of the church for 23 years, said the church members thought they were in compliance with the orders but stayed and were fined by the police.

“The preacher is in the church at the pulpit and we are streaming the service live as well,” Gordon said. “But a lot of our membership is elderly and doesn’t have access (to the technology needed to stream the service).”

From the report:

Gordon, also a Washington County Board of Supervisor’s Member, was in the parking lot Wednesday night and both he and his wife were issued $500 tickets.

“The police were respectful and just doing their job,” Gordon said. “They asked us to leave first and those who stayed got a ticket.”

Gordon said he doesn’t believe a statement was being made either by the gathering or by the citations.

“I think somebody called the police,” Gordon said. “And we were just doing the same thing we’ve been doing the last three weeks.”