coronavirus

Illinois Church Sues Pritzker in Federal Court Over Extended Stay-at-Home Order

It's the third such lawsuit filed surrounding the extended order, which takes effect Friday and continues through May 30

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An Illinois church has now filed suit against Gov. J.B. Pritzker in federal court over his extended stay-at-home order.

The Beloved Church in Lena, located in northwestern Illinois, was forcibly closed during the statewide order but calls the extension unconstitutional and said it plans to hold public services this Sunday.

"They justifiably fear arrest and prosecution if they do so, without immediately relief from this court," the lawsuit states, asking for temporary and permanent relief from the stay-at-home order.

The church said it was served a cease and desist notice on March 31 by area police saying if it did not comply with the stay-at-home order "the Illinois Department of Public Health has the authority to order that a place be closed and made off limits to the public." The suit alleges people of faith are being relegated "to second-class citizenship" under the order.

"The churches and pastors of Illinois are no less 'essential' than its liquor stores to the health and well-being of its residents," the suit states.

It's the third such lawsuit filed surrounding the extended order, which takes effect Friday and continues through May 30. It is the first to be filed in federal court, however.

Rep. John Cabello, a Republican from the Rockford area, also filed suit Wednesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court, records show.

The lawsuit alleges Cabello and "all citizens similarly situated are being irreparably harmed each and every day they continue to be restricted to their home and limited in their activities" under the order.

"What we want are common sense solutions to this problem and we need every voice heard- not just his," Cabello said Wednesday.

Cabello is seeking an injunction stopping Pritzker and any other state officials from enforcing the stay-at-home order or issuing any new orders, the suit says.

Cabello's lawsuit was filed days after a judge granted a temporary restraining order to another Illinois lawmaker who filed a lawsuit against Pritzker.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, a Republican from Xenia, Illinois, filed suit last week claiming Pritzker exceeded his authority and violated the civil rights of the state’s residents.

Pritzker has slammed the lawsuits during his daily press briefings this week, calling them "irresponsible" and "just another attempt at grandstanding."

He also filed an appeal Wednesday aimed at overturning the ruling that exempts Bailey from abiding by the restrictions of the order.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker reacts to news that a judge has granted a restraining order over the extension of the state’s stay-at-home order.

When asked about the church's suit Thursday, Pritzker acknowledged "these are difficult times for parishioners to not be able to access in person your faith leader," but said many churches have found ways to reach parishioners while social distancing.

"[I] would just urge the faith leaders who are worried about the length to put the health and safety of their congregants first," he said.

Stephenson County, where the church is located, has seen a spike in new coronavirus cases this week. The rural county of about 44,000 people reported its first case on March 22 with 13 cases reported by April 24. But in the past week, the county has seen its cases rise to 35. No fatalities have been reported in the county so far.

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