Thursday, May 14, 2020

Churches Fail In Challenge To Illinois COVID-19 Limits

In Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church v. Pritzker, (ND IL, May 13, 2020), an Illinois federal district court refused to grant a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to two churches challenging the governor's COVID-19 limitation on worship services. The governor's order requires social distancing and limits worship services to ten people.  The court said in part:
[B]ecause Jacobson [v. Massachusetts] is implicated by the current health crisis, and because the Order advances the State’s interest in protecting its citizens from the pandemic, the court concludes that plaintiffs have a less than negligible chance of success on their constitutional claims.  Moreover, even if Jacobson’s emergency crisis standard does not apply, plaintiffs have failed to show any likelihood of success under traditional First Amendment analysis. ...
[P]laintiffs have provided no evidence that the Order targets religion. They point to the Order’s exemptions for essential businesses that may host more than ten people and argue “if large gatherings at liquor stores, warehouse supercenters, and cannabis stores are not prohibited – and distancing and hygiene practices are only required to the greatest extent possible – even though endangering citizens (or not) to an equal degree, then it is obvious religious gatherings have been targeted for discriminatory treatment.” The court disagrees.
Gatherings at places of worship pose higher risks of infection than gatherings at businesses.
WLS TV reports on the decision.