Are We Losing the Right to Assemble and Worship?
Police Raid Mississippi Church Drive-In Service
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:23-25
Throughout scripture, God called his people to assemble together. We read this in the Old Testament when God called Moses to assemble the Tribes of Israel together (Exodus 31:1) and in the New Testament (Acts 14:27) when the newly established Church in Acts would gather together to pray and break bread. Jesus promises believers in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
Amid the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, churches across the country and around the world have stopped gathering together; instead, churches are meeting virtually online. According to a recent poll conducted by LifeWay Research on March 29, only 7 percent of Protestant pastors in the United States held in-person services.
Government leaders, church leaders, and business leaders have implemented or followed shelter-in-place orders and the CDC’s health guidelines, in an effort to protect the health and safety of others.
The majority of churches are hosting online services or in some communities, drive-in services. This is where people sit in their cars in the church parking lot and tune their radios to a local station to hear the pastor preach the sermon.
A drive-in service is exactly what Pastor Arthur Scott of Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi did for his weekly Wednesday night Bible Study. His congregation includes many elderly congregants who cannot easily access an online service, so the drive-in service was the best option for his church.
Midway through the teaching, multiple police officers arrived, knocked on the car windows, and issued up to $500 fines to the attendees sitting in their cars.
Pastor Arthur has preached for 45 years, and he said boldly, “I told them to get some more tickets ready because we will be preaching Sunday morning and Sunday night.”
The Mayor and city council issued an Executive Order banning churches from gathering or hosting drive-in services. It wasn’t until after the Mayor was faced with lawsuits over his decision that he finally reversed his order.
Christians across the country should pause and take notice of what’s happened in Greenville, Mississippi. We must continue to ask the question, do these kinds of local policies violate the Constitutional First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and the free exercise of religion?
We should continue to do all we can to mitigate the spread of the virus, but we should not be afraid to question policies that infringe on Constitutional Rights.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
While we should actively hold our elected officials accountable to protect our Constitutional Rights and Biblical values, we should also remember that God told his followers persecution would happen (2 Timothy 3:12, Matthew 5:10). And always be assured that because of Christ’s death and resurrection we have an eternal hope which outweighs all present struggles (2 Corinthians 4:17).
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