Beloved Church of Lena Files Lawsuit Naming Jay Robert Pritzker, David Snyders, Steve Schaible, and Craig Beintema As Defendants

ILLINOIS — Pastor Stephen Cassell and Beloved Church of Lena, Illinois has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against defendants listed as Jay Robert Pritzker, David Snyders, Steve Schaible, and Craig Beintema in their official capacities claiming “illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practice, churches, and people of faith” among others listed in the suit.

The lawsuit filed in court on Thursday alleges Governor Prizker flagrantly violated the fundamental religious liberties of Illinoisans, in violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause and parallel provisions of the Illinois Constitution and statute.

“On the eve of Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar”, Pritzker expressly prohibited even no-contact, drive-in services in Illinois church parking lots. At the same time, he declared a laundry list of businesses to be “essential,” from liquor stores to lawyers to landscapers”, the lawsuit states.

“In recent days, a number of law enforcement officials (e.g., Douglas County Sheriff Joshua Blackwell, Energy Police Chief Shawn Ladd, Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger, Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower) have publicly announced they will refuse to enforce Pritzker’s orders, some going so far as to state they are unconstitutional, such that enforcement would be a violation of their oath of office.

Despite the deep statewide concerns about the shaky legal foundations of his orders, Pritzker has not yielded to those concerns, but instead doubled down, announcing he will extend his orders to the end of May and beyond. Throughout, the Illinois State Police has threatened criminal enforcement of the orders statewide, even when local law enforcement decides not to do so.’

According to the lawsuit, on or about March 31, 2020, Defendant Craig Beintema, Administrator of the Department of Public Health of Stephenson County, Illinois, delivered a “Cease and Desist Notice” to Pastor Cassell.

On March 31, 2020, the “Cease and Desist Notice” was personally served on Pastor Cassell by deputies employed by Defendant Snyders’ office.

According to the lawsuit, the Notice instructed Pastor Cassell that “your establishment, The Beloved Church, is required to adhere to [EO 2020-10].” And further that “[i]f you do not adhere to this Executive Order, the Illinois Department of Public Health has the authority to order that a place be closed and made off limits to the public.

The church says it fears arrest, prosecution, fines, and jail time now if they open their building or hold religious services of any kind.

“Pritzker’s Executive Orders allow so-called “Essential” businesses to operate with no limit on the number of individuals gathered therein, while every religious gathering of any number is prohibited”, the suit claims. The lawsuit states that all Defendants actions have deprived Plaintiffs of rights under the U.S. Constitution, taken under color of law.

“Plaintiffs’ rights to peaceably assemble are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Those protections constrain Defendants through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The lawsuit says the Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law and will suffer serious and irreparable harm to their constitutional rights unless Defendants are enjoined from implementing and enforcing the notice and orders.

You can read the full lawsuit filed in court here. PDF.

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