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New York Church Fights Back after Being Threatened with $1,000 Fine for Drive-In Church Service

New York Church Fights Back after Being Threatened with $1,000 Fine for Drive-In Church Service

The Central Baptist Church in New York, which stopped its drive-in worship services after facing the possibility of a fine from the Massena Police Department, is challenging the claim that its drive-in services violate Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order.

The church’s representation, The Rutherford Institute, wrote a letter to the police chief saying the church is within their rights to hold the drive-in services, the Christian Post reports.

“You are mistaken in your assertion that church ‘drive-in’ worship services are prohibited under New York’s current emergency orders and could result in fines,” wrote The Rutherford Institute, a national, nonprofit civil liberties organization, to police chief Adam J. Love last week.

In early May, Love told Pastor Samson Ryman that the church violated the state executive order in its May 3 drive-in worship service, which included 23 people in 18 cars. Love told the pastor that the church could face a $1,000 fine.

But The Rutherford Institute says the “threats” could violate the church’s rights.

“Although federal and state governments have adopted specific restrictive measures in an effort to decelerate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the current public health situation has not resulted in the suspension of fundamental constitutional rights such as religious freedom, freedom of speech and the right of assembly,” the letter said.

Police “threats … are grounded in a misunderstanding of the law and a misapplication of the Governor’s Executive Orders, which severely chills their exercise of the fundamental right to practice their religion,” it added.

For its drive-in service, Central Baptist Church required that attendees park in the parking lot and stay in their cars for the worship service. Ryman preached from a church porch and the message was played to an FM radio station.

After the May 3 service, Ryman wrote on Facebook: “What a gorgeous day the Lord gave us for our first drive-in service! Seeing all our members with smiling faces. Oh, how we’ve missed worship and fellowship with our church family! What a great day! I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Allen Tran

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.