‘The record clearly reveals how virulent and dangerous COVID-19 is…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) A federal judge rejected two Illinois churches’ requests for a temporary hold on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order — which prevents churches from holding gatherings of more than 10 people until at least May 30 — calling the request “ill-founded and selfish.”
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries had called for a temporary restraining order against Pritzker’s order so that they could hold services again.
The two churches said that their services would follow health officials’ social distancing guidelines, with reduced seating, designated exits and entrances, and hand sanitizer for all attendees.
But U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman denied their request, arguing that churches are not as “essential” as grocery stores and other businesses that are still open.
“The harm to plaintiffs if the Order is enforced pales in comparison to the dangers to society if it is not,” Gettleman wrote in his opinion, according to ABC-7. “The record clearly reveals how virulent and dangerous COVID-19 is, and how many people have died and continue to die from it.”
Even with the additional health and safety precautions, the churches would be risking “the lives of … congregants, as well as the lives of their family members, friends, co-workers, and other members of their community with whom they come into contact,” Gettleman wrote.
Both churches plan to appeal the decision.
Gettleman’s ruling is the second judicial decision in the past two weeks upholding Pritzker’s order.
The first ruling, issued two weeks ago by District Judge John Lee, similarly struck down a church’s request to gather.
Lee admitted that churchgoers’ “desire to come together for prayer and fellowship, particularly in these trying times” is understandable, but added that it must wait.
“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,” Lee wrote in his opinion, according to the Chicago Tribune.