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Federal judge rules stay-at-home order as constitutional

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ROCKFORD — A federal judge on Sunday ruled Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order is constitutional, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Judge John Z. Lee was ruling on a federal lawsuit brought by the Blessed Church of Lena. The church, along with the right-wing Thomas More Society, had alleged the governor’s executive order violated the First and Fourteenth amendments.

The church defied the stay-at-home order on Sunday and held services.

From the Sun-Times:

“Given the continuing threat posed by COVID-19, the [stay-at-home] Order preserves relatively robust avenues for praise, prayer and fellowship and passes constitutional muster,” Judge John Z. Lee wrote in a 37-page decision.

Lee cited two historical cases — Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) and Prince v. Massachusetts (1944) — which ruled that “a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease” and “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community…to communicable disease.”

The ruling comes as a major victory for Pritzker and other Illinois officials hoping to continue strict social distancing guidelines during the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lee said the lawsuit’s claims were rendered somewhat moot because of the changes to the order that went into effect on Friday, May 1. While masks are now required, some businesses can open for online and phone orders and hospitals may start doing elective surgery again, depending on local cases of COVID-19 and the availability of PPE.

According to the newspaper, Lee said that the stay-at-home order does not target religious organizations because churches are more comparable to schools and movie theaters, which are also closed, than grocery stores and manufacturing plants.

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