Contact Tracing for Religious Services

Jun 18, 2020

CHICAGO, IL – The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling on the case of the two Illinois Romanian churches included a disturbing statement about “contact tracing” to determine “how dangerous religious services are” compared to other “similar activities.” 

The court stated: “Perhaps with more time—and more data from contact tracing—Illinois could figure out just how dangerous religious services are compared with warehouses and similar activities . . .” (emphasis added). 

Governor J.B. Pritzker previously announced the launch of Illinois’ statewide contact tracing program, Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative, a “locally-driven approach to scale up contact tracing in Illinois” for COVID-19 cases as part of his Restore Illinois program.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the contact tracing program consists of tracers interviewing people who have newly tested positive about who they had significant contact with in the past 48 hours. Those people, often family, friends or coworkers, are then contacted and encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing for 14 days or get tested. Pritzker called contact tracing “arguably our most sustainable tool” in further slowing new COVID-19 cases and lifting social and economic restrictions. 

Chicago also announced a $56 million two-year grant for our community-based organizations to hire, train and support 600 individuals to conduct contact tracing. 

Contact tracing, which is being deployed in many states and foreign countries, raises serious privacy and personal freedom concerns. 

It is disturbing that a federal court with absolutely no argument or evidence on the issue of “contact tracing” would tacitly endorse it to “figure out how dangerous religious services are.” The implications of such a careless statement are far reaching. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Decades of court precedent concludes that courts are incompetent and have no authority to determine the validity of a person’s religious beliefs. Nor should any court use careless language without any evidence in the record to suggest that people attending church should be tracked to determine if church attendance is ‘dangerous.’ The First Amendment does not depend on technology to track and trace a person’s movement.” 

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