On Palm Sunday, Lighthouse Fellowship had conducted a worship service with a congregation of 16 people practicing so-called social distancing in a facility that seats more than 200.
As reported by Liberty Counsel, “a local police officer entered the church. He gave no introduction and did not ask for the pastor. He abruptly said they could not have more than 10 people spaced six feet apart.”
After the service, “two police officers entered the church in full mask and gloves and asked to speak with the pastor. They issued Pastor Wilson a summons and informed him that if he had service on Easter, and if more than ten people attended, everyone would receive the same summons.”
“Because the executive orders prohibit Lighthouse’s sixteen-person, socially distanced gathering in a 225-seat church but allow similar secular conduct, such as a gathering of 16 lawyers in a large law firm conference room, the governor’s executive orders may constitute a violation of the church’s constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion,” the DOJ stated.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia has offered no good reason for refusing to trust congregants who promise to use care in worship in the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and other workers to do the same,” he pointed out.