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Illinois Church Continues Court Fight Against Covid-19 Limits On Religious Gatherings

An Illinois church is appealing a decision that upholds Governor J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order for religious gatherings.

Pastor Stephen Cassell with the Beloved Church of Lena sought a temporary restraining order so it could hold in-person services. Over the weekend, a judge ruled the governor’s order is constitutional in order to prevent mass infections and death. Senior Counsel Peter Breen is with the Thomas More Society, which is representing the church. He said the current limit on attendees in the coronavirus executive order violates religious freedom. 

“There’s no other essential business or operation in the state that has to follow a 10-person hard cap," he said. "We want to have that reversed so that Pastor Steve and the Beloved Church are able to have their services unmolested by local law enforcement or state law enforcement.”

Breen said he also has qualms about the governor's recent comments. 

“Governor Pritzker in his most recent press conferences is saying that people can be put in jail for violating his executive order. We don’t think that’s right, but he also said he was leaving it to some extent to local law enforcement. So there’s a little bit of an inconsistent message coming from the governor.” 

Breen wants to ensure parishoners aren’t arrested, and that the State can open up religious gatherings to larger, socially distant groups. Pritzker said the church has a right to sue, but is holding firm on limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Copyright 2020 WNIJ Northern Public Radio

Chase started in radio while earning his Master's in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky. He was bitten by the radio bug while volunteering at Radio Eye (a local equivalent to NIRIS) and soon became a reporter at WUKY. After four years of reporting in Kentucky's Bluegrass, Chase traveled north to join WNIJ as Morning Edition producer. He organizes our morning broadcast, making sure the host is well-supplied with interesting, fresh content. In addition to his pre-dawn duties, Chase reports on a variety of developments in our broadcast area but is particularly drawn to anything with a political or international connection. He is also an avid board gamer.