Chicago Drops ‘Outrageous’ Charges Against Churches That Kept Meeting Amid COVID Restrictions

Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church |

The charges against two Illinois churches that were penalized last year for performing worship services amid lockdown orders in light of the COVID-19 outbreak have been dismissed.

For hosting services in May 2020, the city of Chicago charged Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and the Philadelphia Romanian Church of "disorderly conduct" and "mob action."

Elim, however, hosted services with social distancing guidelines, such as spacing between participants and assessing worshippers' temperatures in May of last year when the rules went into force.

The United States Supreme Court rejected to hear Elim's case in March, leaving the facility open to the potential of a temporary shutdown for holding services.

At present, the church intends to submit a move for "summary judgment" against the state of Illinois.

What are the details?

According to Christian Post, J.B. Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, issued executive orders restricting in-person worship to a maximum of ten persons.

Elim Pastor Cristian lonescu received a letter from the Chicago Department of Public Health ordering that his church cease hosting services that are in violation of state regulations.

Last year, Department Commissioner Allison Arwady wrote, "I appeal to you as a leader in your community and remain hopeful that you will work with me for the health, safety, and welfare of all Chicagoans."

"If you continue to operate in defiance of the Executive Order, the city will pursue all available legal remedies. ... Any future gatherings conducted contrary to the order will be considered a failure to abate and the city will take steps necessary to abate, including Summary Abatement."

Elim and other churches sued to overturn the gathering limits, and the case is still pending, despite the fact that gathering limits for places of worship in Illinois have been gradually loosened.

The churches, however, will not be fined for hosting the services, according to a ruling issued by Chicago's Department of Administrative Hearings on Monday.

The ruling was applauded by the Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group that is defending Elim Church and Logos Baptist Ministries in a lawsuit challenging the limits.

The legal group has argued that under Gov. Pritzker's executive orders, churches may accommodate an indefinite number of people for nonreligious operations such as feeding, sheltering, and providing social assistance. Religious meetings, on the other hand, were restricted to a maximum of 10 persons in the same church.

Liberty Counsel founder and Chairman Mat Staver noted, "After 52 Sundays, the city of Chicago has finally dropped these outrageous 'disorderly conduct and mob action' charges against Romanian pastors for simply having more than 10-people in their church services."

"The pastors and the Romanian churches understand communism and they are resolved to continue to fight for religious freedom," he added.

With regard to the motion for summary judgment against Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Liberty Counsel said that churches are returning to the District Court in droves as a result of "an overwhelming number" of Supreme Court and other federal courts of appeal rulings against "discriminatory executive orders" targeting "churches and houses of worship."