Lena church sues Pritzker, Stephenson County officials, plans to defy stay-at-home order this Sunday

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LENA, Ill. (WTVO) — A church in Lena, which was issued a “cease and desist” order after continuing to meet in defiance of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, has filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. JB Prtizker and officials in Stephenson County.

The Stephenson County Sheriff has threatened Pastor Steve Cassell of The Beloved Church, at 216 W Mason St, with closure and prosecution for continuing to meet for church services.

Cassell is suing the Governor, Stephenson County Sheriff Dave Snyders, Village of Lena Chief of Police Steve Schaible, and Stephenson County Health Department Administrator Craig Beintema.

Saying church services are permitted through no-contact, drive-in services in other states, the lawsuit alleges that “Pritzker’s statements and actions during the coronavirus epidemic demonstrate an illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practice, churches, and people of faith.”

The complaint says the church plans to hold public worship services on Sunday, May 3rd.

“Pastor Cassell’s spiritual visits and counseling are vitally necessary to the health and well-being of the community. 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,” the lawsuit says.
cut it.

Pritzker’s extension of the stay-at-home order until May 31st has also been challenged by Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) and Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park) in separate lawsuits.

An Illinois court sided with Bailey and overturned Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, which says the governor exceeded his authority and is violating the civil rights of Illinois’ residents. Pritzker has said he would appeal the decision.

At his Thursday press briefing, Pritzker addressed the lawsuit, saying that in-person church services put parishioners at risk from contracting COVID-19.

When asked, Pritzker said he would not send authorities to stop the service, but encouraged church members will encourage Cassell to rethink his decision, which puts the community at risk.

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