According to an article on CBN on Palm Sunday, the Reverend Kevin Wilson’s theme of the day was how people feted Christ as a King at the beginning of the week only to have the mob recast him as a criminal by the end.
Wilson would never put himself on the same plane as his Savior, but he is beginning to understand the criminal part all too well.
Before his Palm Sunday service, a local police officer entered the Lighthouse Fellowship Church in Chincoteague Island, Va., and announced to the few assembled that they must be seated six feet apart with no more than ten people inside the 300-seat church. The officer didn’t ask to see Wilson, who wasn’t in the room at the time.
By the end of the service, in which 16 worshipers were widely separated in the 300-seat sanctuary, two officers wearing masks and gloves entered the church and issued a criminal citation to the pastor for defying Governor Ralph Northam’s edict that where more than ten are gathered there is a crime.
Before they left, the officers warned Wilson that he’d better not have more than ten for Easter services or else … he’d cite every person in the room with the same criminal citation with which they had just sanctioned the pastor.
Wilson could go to jail for one year and be fined $2,500 for violating Governor Northam’s COVID-19 Order 55. If there are more than ten people in Easter service on Sunday, each parishioner would face the same punishment.
Among those thinking that this was heavy-handed treatment was Liberty Counsel, which has taken up the case. In a news release, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said Wilson was doing the right thing for his parishioners and pleaded with the governor to be reasonable.
Lighthouse Fellowship Church protected the health and safety of the 16 people by requiring them to be spread far apart in the 293-seat sanctuary. But because the church had six more people than the 10 allowed by Gov. Ralph Northam, the pastor is being criminally charged. There is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ template that works for every church. We need to balance the First Amendment with protecting the health and welfare of people. Using an arbitrary number of 10 people for every church is not the answer.
Liberty Counsel says the church isn’t well off – it doesn’t have internet – and the members depend on it for the most basic of necessities. For a large percentage of the members, this church is their lifeline.