Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Attorney for Lena church responds to stay-at-home change; lawsuit continues

By Jim Hagerty

LENA, Ill. – An attorney from the Thomas More Society, the law firm representing the Lena church that filed a lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, responded Friday to a change in the stay-at-home order extension.

“Today, people of faith in Illinois stood up and secured a win for their first liberty: the free exercise of religion,” Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen said in an email. “Calling religious freedom ‘non-essential’ was an insult to people of faith, but today we succeeded in returning this fundamental right to the ‘essential’ list.

“We can now celebrate the fact that the ban on religious services in Illinois has been lifted – every church and pastor in the Land of Lincoln can bring their flock together at least for drive-in services or small gatherings, as appropriate. This is a welcome waypoint on the road to that day when our churches are full again.”

The law firm represents Stephen Cassell and The Beloved Church and filed a lawsuit against Pritzker, the Stephenson sheriff, Lena police chief and the county health director Thursday, seeking relief from the stay-at-home order, which initially did not deem churches essential.

Under Pritzker’s new stay-at-home order that’s in effect until June 1, citizens may leave their homes to attend in-person worship services and other religious gatherings as long but only in groups of fewer than 10 people. The order, however, allows for drive-through services.

Breen said he is still seeking a temporary restraining order to allow Cassell and The Beloved Church, which has around 80 members, to hold services this Sunday. The case is pending before United States District Judge John Z. Lee.

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