By | Rachel Brooks
Staff | Telegraph Local
Above, WGN-TV interviews Willie Wilson. Wilson has chosen to pay the fines of those churches who were cited for holding services on May 17. At the same time, The Illinois State Constitution verbatim text reveals that this citation is unconstitutional. Simultaneously, studies show that gatherings and protests have further spread coronavirus in some cases.
The City of Chicago has fined churches for holding services during the coronavirus city ordinances. This was reported by Fox News on May 21. Chicago Police Department told Fox News that three churches will be fined for holding services on May 17. This is due to the fact that Illinois considers church services non-essential gatherings. Because Illinois considers church services nonessential, all worship gatherings are limited to 10 people or fewer.
Philadelphia Romanian is among the churches who have been fined. Philadelphia Romanian required its congregants to limit to 75 souls on Sunday. This is less than 10 percent of the sanctuary’s capacity. Nevertheless, the city fined this church because its congregation exceeded 10 people.
Other churches fined for holding worship services are Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Metro Praise International. They were fined for their Sunday services.
Nationwide such proceedings against churches have sparked protests. This because the citizens of each respective state have pointed out unconstitutional behavior on the part of lawmakers.
Do the protestors have any factual basis to make their argument from? Some ordinance enforcement policies do directly violate the language of their state’s constitutions. In the case of Illinois, Chicago city ordinances and fines against churches are at least in part a violation of the Illinois State Constitution. Specifically, they are in violation of Sections 1, 3, and 5.
“All men are by nature free and independent and have certain inherent and inalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights and the protection of property, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed,” says Section 1.
The city violates this section because it has not protected the right of the “consent of the Governed” with equal priority to public health orders.
The direct violation of the first amendment right to practice religious gatherings was addressed by Matt Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
“Governor Pritzker clearly does not seem to know that churches have the First Amendment right to exist, but businesses do not,” said Staver, as quoted by Fox News.
Sections 4 and 5 of the Illinois State constitution further corroborate Mr. Staver’s statements.
“The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever be guaranteed, and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinions; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be construed to dispense with oaths or affirmations, excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State.
No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship against his consent, nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship..”says Section 4 of the Illinois State Constitution.
Section 4 has been violated at least in part because the “forever guarantee” of worship “without discrimination” has been denied with this ordinance.
The ordinance violated the Illinois State Constitution further because the city has sought a harsh route of enforcement rather than allowing the public voice in COVID-19 safety practices regarding worship. The right of Section 4 should permit Illinoisans to work actively with the public officials to create their own guidelines for houses of worship. This we can infer because of the explicitly stated rights of religious freedom in the constitution.
Because the city and the state have failed to enforce religious gathering protections and essential status as per its explicit place in the constitution even while during a crisis, this section has been violated directly.
“The people have the right to assemble in a peaceable manner, to consult for the common good, to make known their opinions to their representatives and to apply for redress of Grievances.” says Section 5 of the Illinois State Constitution.
The city ordinance is in violation of this section of the Bill of Rights because it bars off the religious public from the right to make a petition on their own terms for reopening churches.
The Illinois Attorney General does not appear to have commented on these issues in any public forum. It is not clear at this time if the State of Illinois will pursue the case of these churches in the United States Supreme Court. In direct response to restrictive lockdowns, rallies are being held to protest said lockdowns, as determined by cellular data, see The Guardian for more. The data was collected by the Committee to Protect Medicare. The Committee to Protect Medicare argues that COVID-19 protests are spreading coronavirus, as some new virus cases were associated with these protest gatherings.
Across the Union, many other states seek to form coalitions against ordinances that do not perfectly follow the U.S constitution. One America News Network reported reopenings of churches in Oakland, California. Likewise, as religious protests escalate, Alpha News Minnesota reports that many churches in Minnesota will violate its own state’s gubernatorial ordinances and resume religious worship.