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Department of Justice sides with church in Greenville case

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The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest in support of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss.

The church sued the City of Greenville and its mayor, Errick Simmons, alleging that the city took improper action to stop it from holding drive-in church services in response to the COVID-19 virus.

On April 7, the City of Greenville passed an ordinance that not only closed all churches to in-person services, it also made it a misdemeanor for churches to hold drive-in services.

To enforce the ordinance, police ticketed worshipers who came to drive-in services at Temple Baptist Church on Sunday in defiance of the order. A church member later had the tickets suspended, and no one had to pay a fine.

While generally in support of states and municipalities enforcing social distancing guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the DOJ believes the City of Greenville’s ordinance has gone too far.

“There is no pandemic exception … to the fundamental liberties the Constitution safeguards,” the DOJ argues in its brief.

The allegations in the suit “suggest that the city singled out … churches for distinctive treatment not imposed on other entities the state has designated as essential services,” the brief continues.

It notes that other essential services, such as restaurants, can continue to serve the public in their cars.

“Notably, the city appears to permit citizens to sit in a ‘car at a drive-in restaurant with [their] windows rolled down,’ but not ‘at a drive-in church service with [their] windows rolled up.’”

“The facts alleged in the complaint strongly suggest that the city’s actions target religious conduct,” the brief concludes.

Read the whole brief here.

In a press conference Monday, the Greenville mayor said the city will drop the fines but will continue to enforce the order while seeking guidance from Gov. Tate Reeves.

“What we’re asking for is definitive guidance regarding drive-in and parking lot services, that’s what the issue is,” Simmons said.

“This whole incident has been taken out of context,” he added. “It’s a misrepresentation of the officers, this council and this mayor.”

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Two officers graduate academy with top honors

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Officer Michael Whitley, Chief Milton Moore and Officer Jeremy Hooper (photo by Thomas Parker)

The ranks of the Vicksburg Police Department grew by two today as Michael Whitley and Jeremy Hooper graduated from the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy at Pearl.

The curriculum at the academy has been modified due to COVID-19. Recruits have been required to stay at the academy for 8 straight weeks. Previously, the program ran several additional weeks while allowing weekends off.

Both officers took top honors, with Hooper being recognized as the best in the class in physical agility. Whitley was recognized for the highest average academically.

There were 53 recruits in their class, which was the 245th class of the academy.

The officers will report back to their respective shifts for additional training with a field training officer before being assigned to one of four shifts with Patrol Division of the Police Department.

Congratulations Officers from your friends at Vicksburg Daily News.

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Thomas Hudson named president of Jackson State University

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Thomas Hudson (photo courtesy IHL)

Jackson State University officially has a new president.

The board of trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named Jackson State University Acting President Thomas Hudson as president of the university at its meeting held Thursday in Jackson. Hudson was named acting president earlier this year.

“As a Jackson State University alumnus, I am extremely pleased that we have identified one of our own to serve as president,” said Dr. Steven Cunningham, a member of the board of trustees, in a statement. “We have witnessed the great strides he has made over the past nine months and have full confidence that he will continue to demonstrate the great love he has for this university by providing outstanding leadership for the students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

As acting president, Hudson has provided leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and the university’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaffirmation process. He has also helped to improve the university’s financial position.

“Naming Thomas Hudson as president provides much-needed stability in leadership at the institution,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., commissioner of higher education. “He has done an excellent job leading the university during an extraordinarily difficult time. I am pleased to continue working with him to advance Jackson State University and the university system.”

As special assistant to the president and chief diversity officer, Hudson served on the executive cabinet and provided guidance to senior leadership on all topics related to the university’s future course and trajectory. With the Division of Human Resources and Office of General Counsel under his purview, Hudson oversaw institutional EEO and Title IX implementation and collaborated with other executive administrators on matters of curriculum, guidelines and practices.

“I am extremely appreciative and beyond humbled for the opportunity to continue to build upon Jackson State University’s extraordinary legacy,” Hudson said. “I recognize that it is an honor to serve in a leadership role, but it is an extreme honor and privilege to serve my alma mater – Jackson State University and the community I grew up in.

“My focus remains the same and that is to ensure the success of our students, faculty and staff and the long-term viability of JSU. I would like to thank the IHL board of trustees for entrusting me to lead. I want to thank my wife, daughters, mother and all my family for their infinite love and support. I also want to thank JSU administrators, faculty, staff and alumni for their deep-rooted dedication to JSU and their immovable belief in the power of a JSU education.”

Hudson has been on staff at JSU since 2012. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Jackson State University and a law degree from the University of Mississippi. Before joining the staff at Jackson State, Hudson founded his own law practice and served as an EEO specialist for the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA in Clinton.

Hudson and his wife, Phylandria, have two daughters.

 

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2.0 earthquake recorded in northern Mississippi Wednesday

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(Image source: USGS)

Yalobusha County experienced a mild 2.0 earthquake early Thursday morning.

The quake, which was centered near Enid Lake and Water Valley and about 18 miles south of Oxford, was the third one recorded in Mississippi this year. Previous rumblers were recorded near Booneville and Tunica Lake.

It’s unlikely that anyone felt much with this quake as it occurred about 6.5 miles underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At 2.0 on the Richter scale, an earthquake can be felt slightly by some people; however, they cause no damage to buildings.

Globally, about a million 2.0 to 2.9 quakes occur every year.

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Vicksburg
61°
Fair
6:37am5:00pm CST
Feels like: 61°F
Wind: 3mph E
Humidity: 67%
Pressure: 30.32"Hg
UV index: 0
FriSatSun
77/52°F
77/52°F
77/48°F

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