illinois churches

Churches Claim Success as Pritzker Announces New Worship Guidelines

State health officials still recommend that in-person religious services be limited to 10 people

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued new guidelines for churches and religious services Thursday as most of the state prepares to move into Phase Three of its reopening plan.

The Illinois Department of Public Health released a nine-page document laying out recommendations - not mandates - as it relates to holding worship services.

Pritzker's extended stay-at-home order, which took effect May 1, included religion as a permitted essential activity, but limited in-person services to 10 people.

Two Chicago-area churches, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in the city's Albany Park neighborhood and Logos Baptist Ministries in suburban Niles, filed a lawsuit in federal court asking that restrictions on religious services be overturned, arguing they were unconstitutional.

Read the full list of guidelines put forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Under modified guidelines, health officials still recommend that no more than 10 people attend a religious service, but if not possible, they said churches church limit attendance to 25% of a a building's capacity or cap attendance at 100 individuals.

"This guidance does not obligate or encourage places of worship to resume in-person activity," health officials said. "Indeed, it is strongly recommended that places of worship continue to facilitate remote services, particularly for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 including older adults and those with co-morbidities."

Liberty Counsel, the non-profit organization that has represented Elim Romanian church and Logos Baptist Ministries in court, said the change is a "complete victory in the near term."

"The only thing that changed was he was dragged to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court," Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said in a news release. "...While we are happy that all churches and houses of worship no longer have any restrictions, we want to make sure this tyranny and abuse never happens again.”

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