Chicago Thuggery Directed at Romanian Churches

May 18, 2020

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has engaged in mob-like thuggery against the Romanian churches that have begun to meet in-person. Even though these churches have their own private parking, and their members don’t park on the street, the mayor ordered “No Parking” signs along the streets for nine blocks around the churches. 

On Sunday, Mayor Lightfoot blocked off nine blocks around the churches posting “No Parking” signs, hoping she would get the neighbors mad at the church. However, the churches are not using street parking with their limited services. The aldermen sent letters to the neighbors of the churches instructing them not to park on the street from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The letters stated the reason for the “No Parking” signs was due to the Romanian churches holding limited services.

When Mayor Lightfoot realized this tactic did not work, she stationed police Sunday night at the entrance to the private parking lot of Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, refusing to allow anyone to park. The police trespassed on private property and interfered with private contractual rights, not to mention grossly violating the Constitution. This tactic also did not work, and the church held its limited service.

Liberty Counsel represents Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries, which have filed a 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. 

On Saturday night, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit did not grant an injunction pending appeal, but the Court did grant expedited briefing. Instead of an appeal taking many months or more than a year, the full briefing and oral argument will be completed in about three weeks. 

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. 

In addition to the threat of arrest, Gov. Pritzker has reportedly said he has other ways to deal with these pastors. This language is chilling to Romanian pastors who heard similar threats while living under the repressive thumb of a Communist dictator.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The actions by the Illinois Governor and Chicago Mayor are reminiscent of mob-like thuggery. These pastors lived under Communist Romania, and now the suppression of the church and their faith has come to their adopted homeland. The outrageous action by Mayor Lori Lightfoot is putting people in danger. These heavy-handed tactics are unconstitutional and will not succeed.”

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