Parishioners ticketed for holding a drive-in service April 8 at Temple Baptist Church will not have to pay the $500 fine issued in violation of Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons’ executive order restricting indoor and drive-in church gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. All gatherings of 10 or more people have also been banned to practice safe social distancing at the recommendation of federal, state and local governments.
Simmons made the announcement of rescinding the tickets at a press conference this morning on the outdoor steps of city hall, which was attended by more than 25 people. Simmons addressed the firestorm caused on social and national media regarding the issued citations at the church last week.
“This smear campaign full of lies about my beliefs are unfounded,” Simmons said, referring to King James Bible Baptist Church Pastor Charles E. Hamilton’s recent appearance on national talk shows, such as Fox News. “To publicly state this mayor is targeting a church is unacceptable and reprehensible.”
Simmons said the current order regarding gatherings are in still in place, but he did say he is asking for “definitive guidance” from Governor Tate Reeves’ office.
“What we’re asking for is definitive guidance regarding drive-in and parking lot services, that’s what the issue is,” Simmons said.
Simmons said the officer who went to Temple Baptist Church acted on multiple calls about the gathering.
“No officers raided or staked out a church,” Simmons said.
Hamilton held his own church service in his church’s parking lot Thursday evening, but no citations were issued.
Simmons said King James Bible Church was not in violation of the order as there were only five people there, including the pastor, in attendance.
“This whole incident has been taken out of context,” Simmons said. “It’s a misrepresentation of the officers, this council and this mayor.”