Illinois pastor sues governor over stay-at-home order

Illinois pastor sues governor over stay-at-home order
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An Illinois pastor who sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) over the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order says he is prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court even after a federal court denied his motion for a temporary restraining order.

"We were kind of thrust into this,” Pastor Steve Cassell of the Beloved Church in Lena told the Alton Daily News in an interview published Wednesday. "And because of that, there was a righteous requirement for me to push back. I did not intend to be the tip of the spear for the state of Illinois."

In the initial stay-at-home order, Pritzker barred gatherings of more than 10 people. A modified order set to expire May 30 allows worship services with 10 or fewer people with social distancing guidelines still in place.

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Cassell held a service with dozens of parishioners over the weekend without incident.

On Monday, Pritzker said a federal court had denied the request, adding “that suit failed and it’s because people do have the ability to worship,” according to the news outlet.

Cassell said he would not comply with the modified order and said local officials have told him they will not endorse it.

“I did not put anybody's safety at risk and just to assume it or to outright say it like the governor just shows downright animosity to all things church and all things God,” he told the Daily News.

Religious leaders have increasingly pushed back on stay-at-home orders and accused governors who imposed them of infringing on religious liberties. Earlier this week, the Justice Department sided with a Chincoteague, Va., church’s lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) order, which also restricts religious services to 10 people.

"Permitting similar opportunities for in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals, while at the same time prohibiting churches from gathering in groups of more than 10 — even with social distancing measures and other precautions — has impermissibly interfered with the church’s free exercise of religion,” the Justice Department said in the filing.