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Church, more lawmakers challenge COVID-19 shelter-in-place order

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SPRINGFIELD — A church in northern Illinois has filed a lawsuit against the state’s shelter-in-place executive order and three GOP lawmakers called for a vote on the extension of the order.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Thursday that The Beloved Church of Lena in Stephenson County had filed a federal lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker over the order.

The lawsuits filed by State Reps. Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) and John Cabello (R-Machesney Park) were in state court. Local officials in southern Illinois have also started to push back on the order.

While Illinois has largely avoided the protests that have hit states like Michigan, it has seen a growing number of legal actions.

According to the newspaper, the lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Society on behalf of church and its pastor, Stephen Cassell. It alleges that the Stephenson County health department delivered a cease-and-desist notice to Cassell on March 31.

“Plaintiffs believe that, in these dark times, Illinoisans need the Spirit of Almighty God, but Pritzker’s orders have left them to settle for the lesser spirits dispensed out of the state’s liquor stores,” the complaint stated.

The Sun-Times reported that the lawsuit alleged that the order violates the First and Fourteenth amendments and accused the governor of “hostility to religious exercise.”

The previous day, State Reps. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville ), Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) and Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) called for the General Assembly to vote on the shelter-in-place order.

“What we are talking about here is the governor’s authority to go past that 30 days of emergency power,” Davidsmeyer told the State Journal-Register. “Whether you agree with the governor or disagree with the governor, we believe that a separate but equal branch of the government, the General Assembly, should have input in the direction of the state of Illinois.”

“The state legislature needs to be part of the decisions making process,” said Ugaste. “Any additional disaster proclamation by the governor needs the approval of both chambers of the legislature. If we are all truly in this together, the governor cannot continue to act alone.”

The state capital newspaper reported that Priztker has called state lawmakers essential lawmakers and can reconvene whenever they want.

Davidsmeyer is part of a group of lawmakers who want different regions of the state to open on their own timetable since they have smaller numbers of COVID-19. His district also borders Missouri which has started to loosen restrictions, restrictions that were already more relaxed than Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Thursday announced 2,563 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 141 additional deaths, the second highest daily total for both numbers.

Brown County is now reporting a case. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 52,918 cases, including 2,355 deaths, in 97 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Hammond, one of those reps calling for the vote, represents Brown County.

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