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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is seen during a ribbon cutting for the Blue Goose Hollow development project on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A lawsuit brought by a resident against the city of Chattanooga in April over COVID-19 shutdown measures and religious liberty has been dismissed as part of a settlement.

In April, Turkeisha Douglass sued the city and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke alleging a First Amendment violation since she was not able to attend the planned drive-in Easter service at the First Church of the Nazarene due to the mayor's shutdown measures.

Douglass alleged there was "no evidence that drive-in church services pose any real risk of serious illness or death" and attending Easter service is a "fundamental pillar" of her faith.

Two days after the first of multiple lawsuits against the city was announced, Berke moved to allow drive-in religious services.

On Sept. 18, a district court judge announced the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice as part of a settlement. According to the decision, the city agreed to not ban drive-in church services that are held following Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's guidelines and follow any future executive orders from the governor regarding COVID-19.

Each party will pay its own fees for the lawsuit, according to the announcement. The consent decree agreed upon by both parties as part of the settlement means that neither party admits fault in the lawsuit.

Douglass' lawsuit was one of three brought against the city in the spring alleging First Amendment violations. One of the other cases was dismissed without prejudice after the plaintiff failed to show cause and in the other instance the church dropped its charges against the city.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Douglass was represented by the California-based Barnes Law, which recently defended Alex Jones in the defamation lawsuit brought by parents of a victim in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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