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Champaign ministry files lawsuit against Pritzker

Jesus House sign (WCCU)
Jesus House sign (WCCU)
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Jesus House Restormation Ministries in Champaign is suing Gov. JB Pritzker and claims he is violating freedoms of ministries, churches, and people of faith with his executive orders.

"It was just an attack on the word of God," said Pastor Dustin Brown, Executive Director of Jesus House Restoration Ministries.

The Table is the name of the church, run by the Jesus House. It's one of the many ministries under their umbrella of services.

They hold services every Sunday with nearly 75 people. Roughly 30-40% of their patrons are homeless and are using some of their other services.

After two church services were held in a public park, the church said it received a cease and desist order from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD).

CUPHD Public Health Administrator Julie Pryde said they listened to the order and made sure social distancing precautions were taking place, and that the services were not being held on public property.

To follow that guidance, church members started gathering in the back of a private parking lot in Champaign.

Changes to Pritzker's executive order now allow churches to have in-person services with no more than 10 people.

Brown felt he needed to do something to stand up for the church.

"A governor should not be allowed to put a cap on how many people assemble together to practice their religious rights. It's a violation of the Constitution," said Brown.

The ministry filed a lawsuit on May 12 with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, suing Pritzker over the executive order.

The lawsuit states that it's for violations relating to free exercise of religion, right to peaceably assemble, right to freedom of speech, and right to equal protection.

One of the lawyers representing Brown and the ministry is Timothy Belz, a Thomas More Society Special Counsel.

"The governor allows all kids of retail situations, including liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries, with more than 10 people, and with extended periods of time," Belz said.

Lawyers with Thomas More Society stated in the lawsuit that, "the new order makes the 'free exercise of religion' the only exempted business or activity expressly subject to the 10-person limit."

"There are other social services organizations that do the exact same thing that we do," Brown said. "They provide food, they provide clothes, they provide shelter, which we do. The only difference between us and them is that we were preaching the word of God."

Pritzker has addressed previous lawsuits saying it's "just another attempt at grandstanding" and also stated that he wants to work with churches to come up with ways for them to open safely.

Brown shared that one of the purposes of the lawsuit was to make a point, and if history repeats itself in the future, it shows that it is worth every second of the fight.

"They have a case to reflect back to and ammunition that they need to file a case later to stand up for their religious freedoms and really more so stand up for the word of God, tells them should be standing up for," said Brown.

The governor and his office have until Thursday to respond for a preliminary injunction.

At the moment, there has not been a response.

To view the filed lawsuit, click here.

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