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Barr: ‘Even in Times of Emergency,’ Federal Law Prohibits Religious Discrimination

Barr: ‘Even in Times of Emergency,’ Federal Law Prohibits Religious Discrimination

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement Tuesday that “even in times of emergency,” federal law prohibits religious discrimination.

The attorney general released a statement on religious practices and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

It came after Barr intervened in a Mississippi church’s lawsuit against Greenville police, who ticketed congregants during a drive-in service. The ticketing “strongly suggests that the city’s actions target religious conduct,” Barr said, according to Fox News.

While Barr told Americans to follow social distancing directions issued by state and local authorities, he noted that “even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.”

“Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity,” Barr said. “For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings.”

He added: “Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens.”

Barr referred to the Statement of Interest that the Department of Justice filed Tuesday in support of the Mississippi church, Temple Baptist Church, saying ...