Governor of Illinois Puts a Stranglehold on People of Faith Coming Together, but Churches Are Fighting Back

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

Churches are suing Illinois for the right to meet.

Last Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his 5-point Restore Illinois plan, which prohibits any gathering of 50 or more until Phase 5. And when does numero cinco arrive? That’d be when there’s “a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases.”

Meet-ups of fewer than 50 will be permitted, but not ’til Phase 4.

At the moment, the state’s at Phase 2 (flattening the curve), and #3 will let you get together if there’s only 10 of ya.

As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, phase transitions will be determined by “specific public health metrics.”

Clearly, if churchgoers are waiting for a vaccine, that could be a long sit-out.

Some aren’t prepared to hold off. And shouldn’t the rule of 50 be somewhat informed by how large a space they’re in?

Cases in point: Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church’s 40,000-square-foot property features a main auditorium with 750 seats and overflow rooms offering 550 more. Logos Baptist Ministries’ 36,000-square-foot campus serves up 425 seats with 100 more in overflow.

On Friday, both churches asked for a temporary restraining order against J.B.’s edict.

To be clear, though they wanna gather in one accord, they’re willing to stay socially distant.

From the Sun-Times:

The two churches proposed reduced seating by removing chairs when possible and limiting pew access while allowing families to sit together. The churches also said they would sanitize facilities before services, tell attendees they could wear masks and/or gloves, advise people not to shake hands or have physical contact with others, offer hand sanitizer throughout the facility and distribute it as people arrive, designate separate exits and entries, prop doors open so they don’t need to be touched, and ask anyone with coronavirus symptoms or at risk of coronavirus not to attend.

The faithful folks just want to worship in person without being deemed criminals.

The lawsuit lays it out:

[P]laintiffs merely seek a (temporary restraining order) preventing plaintiffs, their pastors, and their congregants from being subject to criminal sanctions for hosting in-person worship services on Sunday during which plaintiffs will implement social distancing and hygiene protections on an equal basis with other non-religious gatherings. … If plaintiffs, their pastors, or their members do not subscribe to what Governor Pritzker has prescribed as orthodox in a worship service, they risk becoming criminals in the state.

Another church — the Beloved Church of Lena — also filed for a temporary restraining order last week. That effort was shot down by a district judge who insisted the governor’s stay-at-home order “preserves relatively robust avenues for praise, prayer and fellowship and passes constitutional muster.”

What a strange moment in which we’re living, as churches may by prevented from meeting, in this case, for a very long time.

Meanwhile, not everybody in Illinois seems interested in strictly following orders.

Here’s the mayor of Alton, Illinois. And the governor himself:

Maybe it’s their way of social distancing — their households are staying 6 feet away from following their own rules.

-ALEX

 

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