Written by Jim Davids, Esq.
On March 16, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker signed Executive Order 2020-07 that states in part,
Beginning March 18, 2020, all public and private gatherings in the State of Illinois of 50 people or more are prohibited for the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation. A public or private gathering includes community, civic, public leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, and any similar event or activity that brings together 50 or more people in a single room or a single space at the same time. This includes venues such as fitness centers/health clubs, bowling alleys, private clubs, and theatres. This does not include venues that provide essential goods or services such as grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, gas stations, banks/credit unions, and shelters.
Since many, if not most, of the churches in our State have more than 50 people in the worship center, we have pursued alternatives, such as moving worship online. This actually has brought the Gospel to a much broader audience, with many pastors reporting that more people are watching their services online than at their average Sunday service. But, not every church member has a computer or internet access, and there is no equal to personal warmth and caring when done in person.
As U.S. Attorney General William Barr observed recently, this pandemic does not nullify the Bill of Rights, including America’s first freedom to exercise religious faith. All government officials – federal, state and local – must respect and protect the constitutionally protected freedom of Americans to worship according to their own beliefs. Gov. Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-07 obviously hinders Illinois residents in their exercise of religion, as well as in their right to peacefully assemble.
This deprivation of religious rights is effectuated by the Governor’s decision not to recognize religious services as “essential.” People congregating in some stores is okay, according to the Governor, but not in church. This has undoubtedly resulted in many churches seeing a reduction in tithes and offerings. The Governor is not treating all secular gatherings and religious gatherings the same, based on his opinion of what is “essential.”
The Bible is clear that we should respect and obey government leaders (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Titus 3:1). At the same time, Paul and other Christians availed themselves of their rights as citizens and used the judicial systems of their day to appeal unjust rulings (e.g., Acts 25). In our system of government, Gov. Pritzker’s Executive Orders are subject to review by judges who may find them unconstitutional or otherwise contrary to law.
If the Governor’s Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people in a room, or his subsequent “stay at home” order, has resulted in
- Members of your church being unable to worship;
- Typical events like funerals, marriages, baptisms being unable to proceed; or
- Substantial financial losses due to decline in donations
and if you sincerely believe that restarting in-person church meetings is essential to your church’s ministry, we would like to talk to you about filing a law suit on your behalf. The phone call would be free, and, if our lawyers decide to take your case, you will not be charged for their services on your behalf. Please contact us to talk about your situation:
Justice & Freedom Law Center (JFLC)
Finally, let us end this with a little encouragement. During times of crisis, like the present one, people realize their weakness, their vulnerable health, and their need for a Savior. Remain vigilant in declaring the truth of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.
Use also this opportunity to show the love of Christ in tangible ways. Consider delivering food to the elderly in your churches, or expanding your food pantry. You can also consider using your church as a temporary day care for healthcare workers or first responders.
Be of good cheer. Remember that God is in control, and perhaps this pandemic is His means of creating a revival in our State and country.
Jim Davids is a native Chicagoan who, after graduating from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and Duke University School of Law in Durham, NC, returned to Chicago to begin practicing law. At church on a Sunday night in 1977 he met Sue, and after a two-year courtship they married. They raised four children in Chicago, and now have 12 grandchildren. (Read more here…)