CHICAGO — Two Illinois congregations have filed an emergency lawsuit against the governor claiming his COVID-19 rules for churches are unconstitutional.
Both churches – one in Chicago and one in Niles – were hoping they could reverse Gov. JB Pritzker’s orders by Sunday in time for services. The judge just said he’s not going to rule that fast but there could be a decision by early next week.
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago and Logos Baptist Ministries In Niles filed a temporary restraining order against the governor Friday and his Restore Illinois plan — arguing they have a right to worship just as much as box stores and grocery stores have a right to welcome customers.
“There’s a real problem with deeming churches not essential,” Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel, said. “That might be the governor’s pov but churches are very essential.”
They want more than 10 people to be allowed to attend in-person church services.
The lawsuit says “plaintiffs are threatened with becoming criminals for merely having 11 people at church.”
“Churches are not going to put people at risk, that’s not their desire but they ought to have some kind of equal treatment. The constitution demands it. And that’s not what’s happening in Illinois,” Staver said.
Last week, another church about an hour west of Rockford filed a similar lawsuit, but lost.
The churches argue they are more essential now than ever. Especially as people lose their jobs and become depressed.
“Not all churches can just close the doors, flip off the lights and resort to a podcast. Many of them feed individuals, clothe people, they provide counseling they provide help,” Staver said.
Under the governor’s plan, there are five phases of reopening the state. All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned until Stage 4.
WGN reached out to the attorney general, but did not hear back.
The lawyers in this case are filing similar lawsuits all over the country.
As of Friday, church services can begin again in Indiana and there is no limit to the number of people who can attend.
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