A little church on a little Virginia coastal island has attracted the attention of the Trump administration, with Vice President Mike Pence lining up with the church against blackface-wearing Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam.
Pence reacted on May 6 to the Justice Department’s decision to side with Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island, which sued Gov. Northam after being fined for holding a service during the coronavirus pandemic. Pence said he “strongly” agrees with the ruling.
“Even in the midst of a national emergency, every American enjoys our cherished liberties, including the freedom of religion,” Pence, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told listeners on The Brian Kilmeade Show on Fox News Radio.
The church sued Northam after police threatened a pastor with jail time or a $2,500 fine for violating the state’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions by holding a 16-person church service on Palm Sunday.
The DOJ ruling came after police in protective gear served a summons to Kevin Wilson, pastor of the church, for holding the service on April 5 with 16 people spaced apart from each another in a church that could accommodate nearly 300 people. State officials said Wilson and the church violated the Virginia Constitution by breaking state-imposed social distancing restrictions intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“The very idea that the Commonwealth of Virginia would sanction a church for having 16 people come to a Palm Sunday service, when I think the church actually seats 250, was just beyond the pale and I’m truly grateful for Attorney General William Barr standing by religious liberty as we approach the National Day of Prayer this Thursday,” Pence told FOX host Brian Kilmeade.