Governor Includes “Free Exercise Of Religion” On Essential List
The extended order contains a key change under permitted examples of leaving the home for “essential activities.” However, any religious gatherings are limited to ten people.
The new extended order says leaving home is allowed “to engage in the free exercise of religion, provided that such exercise must comply with Social Distancing Requirements and the limit on gatherings of more than 10 people in keeping with CDC guidelines for the protection of public health.”
The governor's extended order came on the same day that Pritzker was sued in federal court by the Thomas More Society on behalf of The Beloved Church of Lena and its pastor, Stephen Cassell.
Earlier on Thursday, Pritzker responded to the suit filed on behalf of a church in the northwestern Illinois town of Lena by asking faith leaders to “put the health and safety of their congregants first.” He added, “Everybody has the right to sue.”
Churches were not technically closed by the previous stay-at-home orders, but they were prohibited from holding large gatherings, per CDC guidelines.
The complaint says the church intends to “reopen and hold public worship services this Sunday.” It goes on to say church leaders “fear arrest and prosecution if they do so, without immediate relief from this court.” Because about 80 people attend Sunday services at the church, according to the lawsuit, the service could be held in violation of Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.