DOJ supports Lighthouse Fellowship lawsuit in Federal Court

May 26, 2020
Lighthouse Fellowship Church

By Linda Ciciora

U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger and Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division say they support a lawsuit brought in federal court by Lighthouse Fellowship Church, of Chincoteague.

They want to protect religious liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting the church, which serves, among others, recovering drug addicts and former prostitutes.

On May 3, the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest supporting Lighthouse Fellowship Church’s emergency request for an injunction pending appeal of the district court’s ruling of May 1, which denied Lighthouse Fellowship Church’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

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Friday, the district court denied the church’s request for an injunction. The church has appealed the district court’s denial of its emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The Department of Justice is assessing its options with regard to participating in that appeal.

“Our First Amendment right to freely exercise religion does not disappear during a pandemic,” said Terwilliger. “Public safety is critical while COVID-19 remains with us, but we must also preserve our fundamental liberties.”

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of all people in our country to exercise their religion freely and without undue restrictions imposed by government,” said Dreiband. “As President Trump again reminded us, houses of worship are essential to people of faith, and those people include the recovering drug addicts and former prostitutes who allege that the Commonwealth of Virginia is unlawfully denying their ability to exercise right religion.”

The case has drawn attention from the Trump administration.  Vice President Mike Pence weighed in supporting the church earlier this month.




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