Transforming lives with Good News in the Nation’s Capital

Tyrannical Assault on Churches

Apr 27, 2020

In 25 years of ministry in Washington, DC, we’ve never witnessed a more serious assault on religious freedom than what is happening right now across the nation.

For instance, on April 5, before the Palm Sunday service, a local police officer entered the Lighthouse Fellowship Church, a small congregation on Chincoteague Island in Virginia. The officer gave no introduction and did not ask for the pastor. He abruptly said they could not have more than 10 people spaced six feet apart based upon the governor’s executive order. There were 16 in attendance in a sanctuary that seats over 250. After the service, two police officers entered the church in full mask and gloves and asked to speak with the pastor. They issued him a summons and informed him that if he had service on Easter, all attending would get the same summons.

Lighthouse Fellowship Church helps keep people free of drug addiction, brokenness, mental illness, poverty, and prostitution. The church, which does not have internet, provides physical, emotional and spiritual services to the community. Many of the members do not have driver’s licenses and are dependent on the church family for rides to get food, supplies, and go to medical appointments and personal care services like haircuts. Many attendees are on limited income obtained from government assistance — whether disability or social security, Medicare or Medicaid and the church has helped various members with electric or gas bills, rent, groceries, and physical labor.

The fact is the parking lots of multiple commercial establishments near the church were filled with hundreds of cars. Yet, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam criminalized religious worship that exceeds 10 people.

The Supreme Court has unequivocally stated, “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943) (emphasis added). The Commonwealth of Virginia does not have the authority to dictate the manner or form of worship, whether that be online or a 10-person limit.

Governor Ralph Northam discriminated against Lighthouse Fellowship Church. This church does not have internet and cannot flip a switch to broadcast online. Even if it could go online, many of the people the church serves do not have internet. Pastor Wilson protected the health and safety of the 16 people that attended by requiring them to be spread far apart in the sanctuary. But because the church had six more people than the 10 allowed by the governor, the pastor is being criminally charged.

Pastor Kevin Wilson and Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for violating their religious freedom by targeting churchgoers on Palm Sunday.

Because of your prayers and faithful support, Faith & Liberty has fought for over 25 years as your missionaries to Washington, DC, to preserve religious liberty as a fundamental human right. We stand with Pastor Wilson and Lighthouse Fellowship Church as well as with dozens of other pastors and churches across America facing the coercive force of government for simply exercising their First Amendment right to freely worship in the face of arbitrary and unconstitutional executive orders.

We need you to stand with us. Will you help us say NO! to Governor Northam in Virginia as well as other governors and mayors across the nation who have used the COVID-19 crisis to trample on our First Amendment freedoms? We believe the church is essential in our communities – and right now your help is essential in this fight to preserve our religious liberty.

To make your much-needed gift to Faith & Liberty please click here!

Thank you for standing with us! And, thank you for your commitment to religious liberty in America!

Your missionaries to Capitol Hill,

Peggy Nienaber, Vice-President, Faith & Liberty
Mat Staver, Chairman

Rev. Greg Cox, Lead Missionary, Faith & Libert