CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The city of Chattanooga has dropped its unconstitutional ban on drive-in church services, prompting Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing an area church to voluntarily dismiss a federal lawsuit Wednesday that challenged the ban. The city’s stay-at-home order did not originally ban drive-in churches, but Mayor Andrew Berke abruptly announced right before Easter that his order specifically prohibited them.
On April 9, Berke posted a message aimed at churches on the city website and on his official Facebook page regarding the order, stating that “drive-in services…even in their cars with the windows rolled up, for any length of time, will be considered a violation of our shelter-in-place directive.” That forced Metro Tab Church and other area churches to cancel drive-in Easter services and brought about the lawsuit. In the face of the suit, the city reversed its position and agreed to allow drive-in services, which Metro Tab Church and other congregations held for the past two Sundays without any threat of being singled out. Because of that, Metro Tab Church agreed to dismiss its lawsuit.
“Singling out churches for special punishment makes no sense and is very clearly unconstitutional,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “It never made any sense that, in Chattanooga, you could sit in your car at a drive-in restaurant, but you couldn’t sit in your car at a drive-in church service. We commend the city for changing its policies and respecting the constitutionally protected freedoms of area congregations, which can now participate in alternate versions of worship during this pandemic that are specifically designed to comply with all applicable health and safety recommendations.”
Now that Pastor Steve Ball and Metro Tab Church have been permitted to host drive-in services, the church has been able to safely hold worship services and collect donations for victims of a tornado that recently ravaged the city.
ADF attorneys filed the voluntary dismissal of Metropolitan Tabernacle Church v. City of Chattanooga with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Nathan Kellum, one of more than 3,100 attorneys allied with ADF, served as local counsel in the case on behalf of the church.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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