By: Mark Glennon*
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker Thursday abandoned all restrictions in his emergency pandemic order related to religious services. The Illinois Department of Public health released replacement, voluntary guidelines.
The retreat came hours before the State of Illinois was due to file its response with the United States Supreme Court to an appeal by two Illinois churches for emergency relief from his stay-at-home order.
That appeal would have been handled by Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan who, according to a report by FOX News, could have either handled the case themselves or referred it to the full court. But now the state has told the Court that the churches’ request is moot because the mandatory rules have been dropped. The full text of the state’s response does nevertheless include the state’s argument on the merits of its defense.
Pritzker’s announcement that he had reversed positions was uncandid, to say the least.
In his prepared remarks at his daily press conference Thursday he said only that IDHP was posting the new voluntary guidance, but never said his mandatory restrictions were being cancelled. Those comments are below.
He then ducked and equivocated when asked specifically, burying the fact that he was abandoning mandatory restrictions. When finally asked directly whether the new guidelines would be enforced, he said, “As you know, I have never encouraged any police enforcement or any other kind of breaking up of gatherings.” The Q&A is also below.
But that’s not true.
While Pritzker has gone back and forth on whether enforcement of his order would be left to local officials, his most recent action was to threaten local police and enforcement officials who don’t enforce it. Chicago has been enforcing the order, sending police to break up church services, making parking for churchgoers impossible and fining churches. It was “like the Soviet-style KGB” said one pastor about how police tried to break up his service.
Pritzker can spin it as he wants, but here’s how counsel for some of the churches, Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, correctly put it:
This is a total and complete victory for people of faith. The Illinois’ governor and his administration abused the COVID-19 pandemic to stomp on the religious liberty of the people of Illinois. By issuing guidelines only and not the previously announced mandatory restrictions, he has handed a complete victory to the churches in Illinois.
Why did Pritzker wilt? Why did he try to obscure his retreat?
Was it because his “science and data” somehow changed? Everything he does is based on that and anybody who doesn’t abide is costing lives, he says constantly.
Or was it because he feared having his vast emergency powers challenged in the United States Supreme Court?
I’d say the latter.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
Read more about COVID-19 and the impact on Illinois:
- Never mind the courts, says Pritzker. Only his views of the ‘science and data’ matter
- COVID-19 Appears to Have Peaked and be Declining in Illinois – For Now
- Illinois teachers’ union is quite pleased by radical opportunities they would have in an economic depression
- COVID-19 deaths and pre-existing conditions. What Illinois’ data says about who’s at risk
- Pritzker doubles down on linking critics and Republicans to Nazism, anti-Semetism or whatever
- Facing Growing Defiance, Pritzker Thumbs Nose at AG Opinion, Insults and Threatens Dissidents
- Pritzker’s overly-restrictive shutdown rules make Illinois a national outlier
- Half of Illinois’ deaths linked to retirement homes. Five key facts you should know.
- Indifference to Illegality of Illinois Stay-at-Home Order is Frightening
- Wirepoints analysis reveals 92 percent of Cook County COVID-19 victims had pre-existing conditions
- With New FDA Action, Gov. Pritzker and Dr. Ezike Have No Excuse for Further Stonewalling Antibody Testing
- Pritzker’s top-down reopen strategy will fail large parts of IL: He should expect pushback
- Governor Pritzker’s Plan to Reopen Illinois Makes No Sense
- COVID-19: Seven facts that tell us Illinoisans can and must get back to work
- Illinois’ COVID-19 crisis: Daily data update
Pritzker’s Prepared Statement on May 28:
We will also be posting recommendations for houses of worship, providing more guidance for houses of worship in phase three. Having received many plans and ideas from responsible faith leaders, IDPH has reviewed many detailed proposals and has provided guidance, not mandatory restrictions for all faith leaders to use in their efforts to ensure the health and safety of their congregants. This includes suggestions on capacity limits, new cleaning protocols indoor gatherings of 10 persons or less a reduction of activities like sharing food, and the safe conduct of outdoor congregating. The safest options remain remote and driving services, but for those that want to conduct in person activities, IDPH is offering best practices.
Q&A After Pritzker’s Statement:
Question: Today five churches in Lake County filed a lawsuit against your administration. The Christian Assembly of God says they run a food pantry out there, which gets state funding, 30 volunteers feeding 1200 people a week, but they can’t have more than 10 people on Sunday for phase three. How do you respond to that discrepancy which they say, just frankly is not fair to them?
Pritzker: Well as regards of food pantry you know I was in East St. Louis yesterday at a food pantry and like many nonprofit organizations they’ve had to make adjustments in order to keep their patrons safe you know to keep the people who use the food pantry safe. I know that lots of organizations have made those adjustments, it isn’t. Nothing is directed here at at a religious organization that happens to have a food pantry it’s really the idea here for everybody for everything and food pantry specifically is just to make sure that those who get served are served in a safe environment so you know we provide guidelines for different kinds of food service, and organizations, you know in grocery stores and so on. So I think those would apply here too.
Question: I’m sorry maybe the pastor is saying they have 30 people in working the food pantry. If they can have 30 people to work a food pantry, you’re going to find so they can only have 10 people in a service. And the discrepancy there has frustrated the pastor.
Pritzker: Well, again, we have guidelines that are now available for the afternoon on the or will be this afternoon on the dceo website. And those are our best recommendations. We’re not providing restrictions. We’re simply providing the best recommendations that we can for keeping people safe. So we hope that the pastor will follow that guidance and those recommendations for his services his or her services
Question: But if there’s no restrictions then you’re not going to be asking for any law enforcement?
Pritzker: As you know, I have never encouraged any police enforcement or any other kind of breaking up of gatherings. What I have said is that pastors should use their judgment and the science and data, and should follow the recommendations that have been made, but I realized that some have ignored that.