First Liberty Institute Demands Chemung, New York Officials Stop Targeting “Drive-in” Churchgoers

Local policy singles out religious gatherings contrary to CDC guidelines, U.S. Constitution, and federal law

Plano, Texas, UNITED STATES


CHEMUNG, N.Y., April 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- First Liberty Institute today sent a letter to Chemung, New York County Executive Christopher Moss urging him to withdraw a policy that targets churches offering drive‑in services during the COVID-19 pandemic. First Liberty represents three local churches: His Tabernacle, Journey Church, and Pine Creek Christian Center.

You can read First Liberty’s letter here.

“The Constitution forbids the government from singling out churches for restrictions that are not imposed on other entities,” said Keisha Russell, Counsel for First Liberty.  “Churches that creatively and safely serve their communities should be applauded, not targeted.”

Hours before Easter Sunday, County Executive Christopher Moss announced on Facebook Live that drive-in services were prohibited.  Chemung’s prohibition prevented His Tabernacle, Pine City Christian Church, and Journey Church from holding drive-in services on Easter Sunday.  His Tabernacle Pastor, Micheal Spencer said, “Drive-in services allow us to stay connected to our church family while remaining socially distant during this time. Unity is especially important to us for the mental and spiritual health of our community.” In the past month, His Tabernacle distributed thousands of pounds of food to its local community in Chemung County. 

In a similar case, First Liberty recently secured a temporary restraining order for On Fire Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  There, federal Judge Justin Walker stated in his order that Louisville’s ban on drive-in church services violated the Free Exercise clause “beyond all question.”  First Liberty also advocated for churches in similar cases in Greenville, Mississippi; Frisco, Texas; and McKinney, Texas.

“After a month of repeated challenges to prohibitions on drive-in worship services, we expect state and local governments to stop targeting churches and protect religious freedom,” said Russell.

About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.