IL Romanian Churches Appeal

May 13, 2020

Two Romanian churches filed an appeal of their federal lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his unconstitutional executive orders discriminating against churches by restricting in-person worship services to no more than 10 people while allowing commercial and non-religious entities to accommodate large crowds. 

Today, the District Court denied their request for an emergency restraining order. Liberty Counsel represents Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders do not allow worship services that include more than 10 people, regardless if participants meet or exceed the appropriate social distancing and hygiene guidelines, while allowing so-called “essential” commercial and non-religious entities such as liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, warehouse clubs, and ‘big box’ stores to accommodate large crowds and masses of persons without scrutiny or the 10-person limit. This 10-person limit applies to all churches, including large churches that have multiple meeting venues, like these two churches. Elim Church has a campus of approximately 40,000 square feet, with 750 seats in its main auditorium and an additional 550 seats in overflow rooms (1,300 seats total). Logos Church has a campus of approximately 36,000 square feet, with 425 seats in its main auditorium and 100 seats available in an overflow room. These churches, and many others like them, could easily accommodate many more than 10 persons, while still observing all social distancing and safety precautions in place elsewhere.

The Court order does not address many of the arguments raised by the lawsuit. Liberty Counsel immediately filed an appeal of the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The past two Saturdays, Liberty Counsel received 3-0 opinions from the federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit regarding the Maryville Baptist Church in Kentucky. These federal court decisions found that the Kentucky restrictions on parking lot and in-person church services violate the First Amendment. 

The Romanian pastors, and many who attend these churches, are all too familiar with the heavy hand of government against churches and Christians. Pastors living in the former Communist Romania were arrested and jailed for preaching off the approved script of the Communist regime, or for meeting in places forbidden by the government. Many pastors who fled to America endured arrests, and some even beatings and torture. The Communists banned missionary activity and confiscated smuggled Bibles as contraband. The revolution that led to the overthrow of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu on December 25, 1989, began in the town of Timisoara, Romania, the childhood home of Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Our Romanian pastors know well the value of freedom. Never did they imagine that in the Land of the Free they would be prohibited from holding church services. This happened all too frequently in Communist Romania. These churches set the model of incorporating social distancing and hygiene into their worship. The government should treat them equally to other non-religious gatherings and businesses. The First Amendment demands nothing less. We have immediately appealed this decision and look forward to presenting arguments at the Court of Appeals.” 

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