Judge denies two churches challenging Illinois stay-at-home order

Judge denies two churches challenging Illinois stay-at-home order
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A federal judge on Wednesday rejected two Illinois churches’ requests for a temporary hold on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) stay-at-home order.

Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago and Logos Baptist Ministries in Niles had called for a temporary restraining order against Pritzker’s order, asking for permission to hold services with reduced seating, designated entrances and exits and hand sanitizer for all attendees, The Associated Press reported.

The Chicago church held full services last weekend.

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U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman rejected the churches equating houses of worship with businesses deemed essential such as grocery stores, saying the more apt comparison would be to closed businesses and institutions like schools and movie theaters.

Gettleman said in his ruling that even with the precautions described, the virus could easily spread in a worship setting, saying their desire to have services “cannot outweigh the health and safety of the public.”

Pritzker recently modified his stay-at-home order, saying the “free exercise of religion” would be permitted but in-person religious gatherings were restricted to 10 people or fewer.

Both churches have filed to appeal the ruling, which came two weeks after another judge, District Judge John Lee, similarly ruled against a church in northwest Illinois seeking a temporary restraining order against the order.

“The Court understands Plaintiffs’ desire to come together for prayer and fellowship, particularly in these trying times,” Lee wrote in his opinion.

“But even the foundational rights secured by the First Amendment are not without limits; they are subject to restriction if necessary to further compelling government interests — and, certainly, the prevention of mass infections and deaths qualifies. After all, without life, there can be no liberty or pursuit of happiness,” he added.

Pastor Steve Cassell of the Beloved Church in Lena said he was prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court despite Lee’s ruling. Pritzker’s modified order is set to expire May 30.