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Lena Pastor Sues Illinois Governor


Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is responding to a lawsuit filed against him by a Stephenson County church.

The lawsuit was filed by Pastor Stephen Cassell and the Beloved Church of Lena.

The filing says Pritzker’s statements and actions during the coronavirus epidemic demonstrate an “illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practices, churches, and people of faith.”

Pritzker addressed the lawsuit during his daily press briefing in Chicago.

"We’ve asked everybody to do the right thing and, as I say, parishioners and their pastors really have done the right thing across the state. It’s a bit of an outlier, but everybody has the right to sue.”

The plaintiffs plan to hold public worship services this Sunday. According to the filing, they fear arrest and prosecution without immediate relief from the court.

The filing says, “For a father out of work, a young person at risk for suicide, or a mom dealing with substance abuse, a 'Zoom meeting' just doesn’t cut it."

Cassell is represented by Peter Breen with the Thomas More Society.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) says he is hearing from many of his constituents who are ready to return to weekly church services and he is working with Pritzker to develop a list of guidelines for churches to legally resume in-person services.

“I had a 45-minute conversation with the governor on Saturday and on three different occasions he expressed a desire to get religious services back on,” said Rep. Wilhour in a news release. “The freedom to assemble and the freedom to practice our faith is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Reopening our churches needs to be a priority.”

Wilhour says the recommendations being considered include five categories for churches to address: preparing the church building, safe activities for employees and volunteers, the pre-service preparations, the guidelines during service, and the activities after the service or between services.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.