Romanian Churches Sue IL Governor

May 8, 2020

In the land of the free, pastors and church members should never have to fear arrest or sanction for attending worship services in church.  - Mat Staver

We have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Romanian churches against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his unconstitutional executive orders that have totally banned religious gatherings. Recently, his orders give only a few crumbs of liberty, allowing no more than 10 people to gather, no matter the size of the church. Meanwhile, he allows commercial and non-religious entities to accommodate large crowds. Liberty Counsel represents Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries.

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The IL state police are instructed to fill out “stop cards and field reports” concerning those found in violation of the governor’s executive orders and many violators may receive misdemeanor citations for “Reckless Conduct and Disorderly Conduct under the Illinois code.”

Gov. 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, regardless of the size of their sanctuaries. Elim Church has a campus of approximately 40,000 square feet, with 1,300 seats. Logos Church has a campus of approximately 36,000 square feet, with 525 seats. These churches and many others like them could easily accommodate many more than 10 persons while still observing all social distancing and safety precautions.

Gov. Pritzker has made it clear that churches will not be able to hold in-person gatherings of more than 10 people until Phase 4 of his “Restore Illinois Plan,” and that gatherings of more than 50 cannot take place until Phase 5 – which the Governor says will be implemented over 1 year from now and only if there is a viable vaccine.  Yet right now, area “big box” stores have more than 50 people in their buildings every day without threat of legal action by the governor.

Partner with Liberty Counsel to save our churches

The Romanian-born pastors of these churches, along with many of their members, 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 dictator Nicolae Ceausescu on December 25, 1989, began in the town of Timisora, Romania, the childhood home of Horatio Mihet, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Liberty Counsel.

Growing up with his father being a pastor, Mihet dreamed of one day coming to America – the same dream of many Romanians in that period. The pastors of these churches and many of their Romanian members never thought that in the “land of the free” they would face the prospect of criminal sanctions and fines for gathering to worship.

The state cannot ban church gatherings while allowing secular gatherings. Churches are not constitutional orphans begging for crumbs, but rather full heirs to the constitutional promise of the First Amendment and equal treatment under the law.

Partner with Liberty Counsel to save our churches

Gov. Pritzker has clearly discriminated against churches by limiting in-person services to only ten people while allowing commercial and secular businesses to operate with large gatherings of people. In addition, the governor states that it may be more than a year until this limit on churches can be lifted. This is clearly unconstitutional as churches have the First Amendment right to exist, but businesses do not.

In the land of the free, these Romanian pastors and church members should never have to fear arrest or sanction for attending worship services in church.  And neither should the churches in other states where we have filed similar lawsuits against illegal and unconstitutional orders.

As of this writing, churches in Maine, Kentucky and Virginia have had Liberty Counsel file Federal lawsuits on their behalf. Additionally, several hundred pastors and churches in nearly 40 states have called on us to help them keep religious freedom FREE.

Please take some time to pray today for our churches, for our local, state, and federal governments and for Liberty Counsel’s staff. Some of our attorneys worked until 4:00 a.m. on our defense of the Romanian churches! The battles before us are great and we need your financial help and prayers as never before.

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

In Christ,

Mat Staver
Founder and Chairman

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