Chattanooga church sues Mayor Berke and city over ban on drive-in services amid COVID-19

Staff photo by Tim Barber/ From the third floor of City Hall in Chattanooga, Mayor Andy Berke announces an executive order to halt large gatherings, including entertainment shows at the Tivoli, Friday morning, Mar. 13, 2020.

A local church is suing Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and the city for what the church alleges is an attack on its constitutional rights.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday with the Tennessee Eastern District Court, Metropolitan Tabernacle Church says the mayor's stay-at-home orders, specifically a ban on drive-in church services during the COVID-19 pandemic, are violating its constitutional right to assemble and worship.

Metro Tab, led by Pastor William Steven Ball, held its last in-person worship service on March 15 and was planning to begin drive-in services on Easter, when visitors could listen to the service in their vehicles through a short-range FM transmitter. A local pastor met with Berke on April 7 and the mayor said then drive-in services would be allowed, according to the lawsuit.

However, on April 9, Berke ordered churches to not hold drive-in services.