Criminal Charges Against VA Pastor Dropped

Jul 14, 2020

ACCOMAC, VA – The Commonwealth of Virginia has dropped the criminal charges against Pastor Kevin Wilson of Lighthouse Fellowship Church on Chincoteague Island. 

As a result of Virginia Governor Northam’s unconstitutional COVID Order 55, police served a summons to Pastor Kevin Wilson for holding a church service on Palm Sunday for 16 people spaced far apart in a sanctuary that is rated for 293 people. The penalty included up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The general district court for Accomack County has now dropped the charges.

Liberty Counsel represents Lighthouse Fellowship Church which has filed its opening brief to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the federal lawsuit against Governor Northam for violating its religious freedom. Under the orders, the church can hold meetings with an unlimited number of people to feed, shelter, and provide social services, but religious services are restricted to no more than 10 people. The 10-person restriction is still in effect. Even though the criminal charges were dropped, the civil case will continue.

Before the service on Palm Sunday, a local police officer entered the church and said they could not have more than 10 people spaced six feet apart. Then after the service, two police officers entered the church in full mask and gloves and asked to speak with the pastor. They issued Pastor Wilson a summons and informed him that if he had service on Easter, all attending would get the same summons.     

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest and Vice President Mike Pence has publicly supported the church.  

Lighthouse Fellowship Church helps keep people free of drug addiction, brokenness, mental illness, poverty, and prostitution. The church, which does not have internet, provides physical, emotional and spiritual services to the community. Many of the members do not have driver’s licenses and are dependent on the church family for rides to get food, supplies, and go to medical appointments and personal care services like haircuts. Many attendees are on limited income obtained from government assistance -- whether disability or social security, Medicare or Medicaid -- and the church has helped various members with electric or gas bills, rent, groceries, and physical labor. The church also offers a blanket ministry, prayer ministry, discipleship programs, and counseling services.  

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Governor Ralph Northam has clearly discriminated against Lighthouse Fellowship Church and these criminal charges reflect his blatant unconstitutional actions against Pastor Wilson. We are pleased these charges have now been dropped as we continue to uphold the church’s First Amendment right to exist and freely assemble.” 

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