Updated Apr 11, 2020 - Health

DOJ warns of action against crackdowns on religious services

Attorney General William Barr waits in the press briefing room of the White House March 23

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Department of Justice spokesperson Kerri Kupec signaled in a tweet Saturday upcoming DOJ action against local authorities that have cracked down on religious services as part of restrictions to combat the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: While many religious leaders have moved to online services, some churches and conservatives are pushing back against local government orders preventing them from holding in-person gatherings during the pandemic.

Driving the news: After a warrant was issued for the arrest of Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for refusing to cancel his packed services and obey coronavirus physical distancing orders, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a directive that the state's stay-at-home-order exempts religious gatherings.

  • In Louisiana, the pastor of a megachurch near Baton Rouge told Reuters he expected more than 2,000 worshippers on Easter Sunday.
  • In Kansas, the state's Supreme Court announced late Saturday it had upheld Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's executive order preventing religious services of more than 10 people after the Republican-controlled legislature overturned her ban.
  • In Kentucky, a federal judge granted on Saturday a temporary restraining order filed by a Louisville church against Mayor Greg Fischer who announced a ban on an Easter Sunday drive-in service. The judge stated in a memorandum that the mayor's decision was "unconstitutional," per Fox News.
  • In Greenville, Mississippi, two churches said police threatened to fine worshippers at their drive-in services following a ban on the practice announced by the local mayor and city council, Fox News notes.

Go deeper: God and COVID-19

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the Kansas Supreme Court ruling.

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