A church in northwestern Illinois added to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s legal woes Thursday, filing a federal lawsuit seeking an immediate injunction that would allow it to conduct worship services.
A Christian church in northwestern Illinois has joined a growing list of those challenging the authority of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to rule by executive order amid the COVID-19 pandemic, asserting Pritzker’s orders have discriminated against people of faith by ordering churches and other houses of worship closed, while allowing other “essential” institutions and businesses to remain open.
On April 30, The Beloved Church, an evangelical Christian church in Lena, in Stephenson County, and the church’s pastor Stephen Cassell, filed suit in federal court in Rockford.
Church filed a federal challenge vs Pritzker’s stay home order; ‘Rank bigotry’ vs people of faith, complaint says
Named defendants include Pritzker, Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders, Lena Police Chief Steve Schaible and Stephenson County Public Health Administrator Craig Beintema.
The lawsuit takes aim at Pritzker’s executive orders barring large gatherings and his stay at home order, all of which were issued in mid-March.
The church asserts the governor’s actions “demonstrate an illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practice, churches, and people of faith.”
The lawsuit asserts the governor’s orders violate “the fundamental religious liberties of Illinoisans, in violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause and parallel provisions of the Illinois Constitution and statute.”
The lawsuit specifically notes Pritzker has closed churches and houses of worship, while at the same time allowing a host of other businesses deemed “essential” to remain open and serve as public gathering spots amid the duration of the statewide stay at home order. These, they noted, include big box retail stores like Menards and Walmart, as well as liquor stores.
“Plaintiffs believe that, in these dark times, Illinoisans need the Spirit of Almighty God, but Pritzker’s orders have left them to settle for the lesser spirits dispensed out of the state’s liquor stores,” the church writes in its complaint.
“The churches and pastors of Illinois are no less ‘essential’ than its liquor stores to the health and well-being of its residents. Defendants have thus intentionally denigrated Illinois’ churches and pastors and people of faith by relegating them to second-class citizenship.”