DOJ Signs Onto Virginia Church’s Lawsuit Against Northam After Jail, Fine Threats

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who is campaigning to be elected as the state’s governor, greets supporters during a rally in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Julia Rendleman – RC1759A6E8F0

The Department of Justice is supporting a Virginia church’s lawsuit against the state, after police threatened the church’s pastor over a planned 16-person Palm Sunday service with a potential $2,500 fine or jail time should be refuse to cancel the gathering.

Pastor Kevin Wilson of Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island had planned a service with no more than 16 people, who would be socially distanced in a church sanctuary with a capacity of 293 people. Law enforcement claimed he would be violating the state constitution by disobeying Governor Ralph Northam’s state of emergency declaration.

Legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel would later go on to represent Pastor Wilson in his lawsuit against Northam and the commonwealth, claiming Northan violated the First Amendment rights of the pastor by shutting down the regulated church service.

The DOJ panned Virginia for its onerous and draconian social distancing restriction enforcement in case statement obtained by Fox News.

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.”

Attorney General William Barr has blasted what he sees as excessive social distancing restrictions in previous weeks, warning that the DOJ would litigate against states that go overboard.

Virginia public health officials have even gone so far as to suggest certain restrictions on the public could persist for two years due to coronavirus, remaining in place until scientists develop a completely hypothetical vaccine.