Chattanooga church drops lawsuit against Mayor Berke that alleged First Amendment violations

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.

The Chattanooga church that brought a lawsuit against the city alleging First Amendment violations has dropped the charges after Mayor Andy Berke reversed a decision to ban drive-in church services.

On April 16, Metropolitan Tabernacle Church filed a lawsuit against the mayor, saying his stay-at-home orders, specifically a ban on drive-in church services during the COVID-19 pandemic, violated its constitutional right to assemble and worship.

Berke's ban on the services was announced just days before Easter and the church said the order targeted houses of worship, while retail centers and other businesses were allowed to have full parking lots.

Days after the lawsuit was announced, Berke dropped the ban on the type of service.

On Wednesday, Metropolitan Tabernacle Church filed a voluntary dismissal of its lawsuit since the city changed its policy and is now being led by Gov. Bill Lee's guidelines on addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The city is facing two other lawsuits on similar grounds related to First Amendment rights of religion and the mayor's stay-at-home orders. As of Thursday morning, both of those lawsuits remain active.

Contact Wyatt Massey at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.