Pastor Sues Governor Coonman After Being Fined and Jailed for Holding Peaceful Church Service
A Virginia pastor has filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for his issuance of executive orders prohibiting religious gatherings with more than 10 people.
The pastor was served a summons for holding a service for 16 people on Palm Sunday, which spurred him to take legal action because he believes that this is a violation of the Virginia Constitution.
Liberty Counsel is representing Pastor Kevin Wilson and Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island and filed the lawsuit on April 25, 2020 against Northam, whose COVID Order 55 establishes a penalty of up to a year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.
Police served a summons to Wilson for conducting a church service on April 5 for 16 people that were socially distanced in a sanctuary that has a general capacity of 293 people, Liberty Counsel pointed out in a statement.
A police officer “abruptly” entered the church without identifying himself and told the congregation “they could not have more than 10 people spaced six feet apart,” the law firm recounted.
“Then, after the service, two police officers entered the church in full mask and gloves and asked to speak with the pastor. They issued him a summons and informed him that if he had service on Easter, all attending would get the same summons.”
Liberty Counsel claimed that the parking lots of various commercial establishments were filled with hundreds of cars on April 23. “Yet, Gov. Northam criminalizes religious worship that exceeds 10 people.”
“Governor Ralph Northam has clearly discriminated against Lighthouse Fellowship Church which provides essential physical, emotional and spiritual services to the community,” The law firm’s chair, Mat Staver, declared. “This church does not have internet and cannot flip a switch to broadcast online.”
Staver was of the opinion that Wilson prioritized the health of the 16 people that attended on Palm Sunday by requiring them to abide by strict social distancing standards. “But because the church had six more people than the 10 allowed by the governor, the pastor is being criminally charged. We must balance the First Amendment with protecting the health and welfare of people but picking an arbitrary number of 10 people for every church is not the answer,” he stated.
Citing the decision in W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, Liberty Counsel noted that the Supreme Court resoundingly stated, “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
“My kids said to me a couple of years ago as we saw another brand fall because of donations that went against our family principles, they said, ‘Mom you are going to have to start sewing,’” D’Addesi recounted.
We live in truly bizarre times when criminals get preferential treatment, while peaceful individuals assembling in places of worship get stomped on by the state.
Anarcho-tyranny at its finest.