Yesterday over a dozen police officers showed up and raided Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississipi for the terrible offence of having a drive-in prayer service.
The city of Greenville, led by Mayor Errick Simmons, put in place an executive order several weeks ago which required all church buildings closed indefinitely. This includes a refusal to make allowances for even drive-in services where the congregants stay in their cars and have the sermon and worship piped through their FM stations or cracking their windows to hear the pastor from the safety and protection of their vehicles.
With Temple Baptist, the church had been broadcasting through the radio for the last three weeks in order to comply with social-distancing recommendations from federal, state and local governments.
As a result of the raid, the police did not issue mere warnings or threaten to give citations but delivered $500.00 fines to everyone attending that refused to leave, including senior citizens, which numbered about 25 people.
Conservative radio host and commentator Todd Starnes picked up this scandalous incident and made national news. Perhaps because of this, pastor Arthur Scott of Temple Baptist had an almost hour-long conference call with the mayor and 20-25 other pastors to discuss the executive order shutting down all churches.
Pastor Charles E. Hamilton Jr. of King James Bible Baptist Church was one of the pastors on that conference call.
While Pastor Hamilton hoped to hear good news and have a productive discussion, he was devastated by it. He recounted in a video that the vast majority of pastors on the call AGREED with the mayor about not allowing drive-in services or services of any kind.
In fact, of the 20 or 25 pastors on the call, only four of them disagreed with the mayor. The rest supported the proclamation and said they endorsed the executive order- that they supported the ordinance not to allow churches to have services or stay open. As a result, the mayor received no pushback from his decision to shutter all churches from the leaders of those churches, and the order stayed.
Pastor Hamilton was torqued. He recounted in an emotional video:
The outcome from the conference call was devastating… I felt like I was on the phone with a bunch of compromisers. I felt like I was on the phone with a lot of pastors that have rubber bands as a backbone; they’re not willing to stand for a drive-in service. We’re not talking about having 50, 60, 70, 80 people inside a building, we’re talking about having people in their cars, listening to a preacher preach, and the pastors are not standing for that. They did not stand for that. They bowed the knee to the mayor and told him and applaud him for being a great leader.
The one bit of good news he reported was the $500.00 fines issued to congregants of Temple Baptist Church were suspended and will NOT have to be paid. A man named Lee Gordon who works for the city of Greenville and attends the church was able to get them all overturned, and the city agreed not to enforce the citations.
But that wasn’t good enough. Pastor Hamilton continues:
“The problem is that the executive order is still in place. So we’re going to have church tonight at 6:30. We’re going to have a drive-in service at King James Bible Baptist Church. If you are in Greenville… come and be with us tonight at 6:30 pm. We’re having a drive-in service this evening, and I let my church people know we need to take a stand, that they don’t need to stay at home. They don’t need to bow down, they don’t need to be afraid, but we’re going to have service tonight. “
This was when all hell broke loose.
Even before the service started, the small parking lot was flooded with police cars and officers who heard about the incident and came to break it up. At one point it looked like there were 10 or 11 police cars and close to 20 officers. Pastor Hamilton pegs the number at “20 cars and 30 police officers.” For some perspective, Greenville only has a population of about 35,000 people, so that would have been a large part of their force.
The pastor went out to meet them, and one of the police officers came and spoke to the pastor of their intention to break up the church service, telling him, “If you have members come, we’ll allow them to leave before they’re cited. If they decide not to leave, is when they will be cited.” ostensibly for the same $500.00 fine the previous church had received.
Another officer chimed in, “When you got an order of the governor, your rights are suspended.” The pastor clearly disagreed, said “No,” and started to say more, but the officer interrupted him with “[Your rights] can be suspended by the military of North Carolina.”
At that point, Pastor Hamilton went off on a tear. He approached the officers in their squad cars and delivered an epic proclamation of judgment against them, with one part being especially salient.
“They don’t have this sort of traffic when people commit murder. When I sold drugs I never saw this many police officers. Never seen it. When I was with drugs I never seen that many of ya’ll come here. Never. So ya’ll this is happening in Greenville, Mississippi, the poorest part of the United States of America.
There’s more killing in Greenville, more drugs on the corner, and look where the police officers are at. Look where they- they’re at a church. They’re at a church instead of being at where people are killing, and while they’re murdering they at a church where we ain’t gonna hurt nobody, we ain’t drinking. Look where they at y’all. Look at how many police officers. This is America!
Not just America but the bible belt of America ya’ll Facebook. We in Greenville Mississippi. The bible belt. Look at all these police officers. So if all the police officers are here, who are roaming the streets ya’ll? Look at it. Who roaming the streets with all the drugs dealers and gang bangers and prostitution here…the crack houses… but the police officers are here. Why here? The people are committing crimes, they here messing with the church, they here messing with a pastor, one of the best citizens of Greenville. Ya’ll messing with me what? …If all the police are here who are patrolling the streets? Where the real crime is. This is America!
In an ironic turn of events, while the police were there to break up the event due to the prospect of not social distancing, in multiple shots the police officers can be seen huddled together. Most are without masks, are all in close proximity to each other, and definitely NOT social distancing- behaving far more dangerous than these Christians sealed tight in their vehicles.
Despite the heavy police presence, Pastor Hamilton continued his sermon to a few brave souls who decided to stay and listen and were not run off or intimidated by the police and their threats of fines. The pastor had been preaching through the book of Titus for the last 3 or 4 months, verse by verse, and he preached this day from Titus 3.
After the service was over and everyone went home, Pastor Hamilton reported, “No one got a citation. No one got a ticket- to God be the glory!”
He was quite pleased and thanked God that the whole time he preached, all the police officers were listening; they never stopped the service or interrupted it but were forced to listen to his sermon the entire time.
In the same video, he stated that the police presence will likely be back Sunday and was told the officers might arrest them this time, but that they are determined to have their service.
We will follow this event on Sunday and report accordingly.
Update#1. Republican Governor Tate Reeves already responded to this situation. See our post titled “Republican Governor Condemns Police And Mayor That Fined Churches $500. “You are going to have Mississippians revolt.”
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