Chattanooga, Tennessee — April 16, 2020. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) along with co-counsel Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Tennessee, seeking relief for from an executive order issued by City of Chattanooga Mayor that discriminatorily bans drive-in church services in the City.
For people of faith, the need for worship is more important than ever. In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, Pastor William Ball of Metropolitan Tabernacle Church refused to give up on this vital aspect of Christian life. Respecting social distancing guidelines, the church began broadcasting its services online. But when Pastor Ball learned that several of the church’s congregants lacked access to internet, he arranged to have drive-in church services, where congregants would park in the parking lot, with their windows rolled up, and tune into sermons via FM radio. Hoping to initiate this creative and CDC-compliant solution in time for Easter services, on April 7, Pastor Ball contacted Chattanooga police, who informed that the services did not violate local shelter-in-place orders.
Things looked good…for a while.
But, on April 9, the Mayor of Chattanooga abruptly posted a message on his official Facebook explicitly banning drive-in church services – even with windows rolled up. Pastor Ball was forced to cancel the Easter drive-in service. And, while churches like his are prohibited from having drive-in services, Chattanooga freely allows people to sit in cars in parking lots and at restaurants with their windows down. CRE filed suit to restore the church’s rights.
“Metro Tabernacle is fully complying with health guidelines. There is no justifiable reason for shutting them down,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Chattanooga’s discriminatory ban on drive-in church services is both absurd and unconstitutional and we will see to it that this ban is struck down.”
Center for Religious Expression is a servant-oriented, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian legal organization dedicated to the glory of God and the religious freedom of His people. For more information, visit http://www.crelaw.org.