Romanian Churches Petition to Supreme Court

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Will Dunham/File Photo

Liberty Counsel filed a petition for cert asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case of Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries in their federal lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his unconstitutional executive orders discriminating against churches.

The Romanian churches filed a federal lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his unconstitutional executive orders discriminating against these churches by restricting in-person worship services to no more than 10 people. Under the governor’s order, churches can have an unlimited number of people for nonreligious activities to feed, shelter, and provide social services, which includes unemployment or disability counseling. However, the same order limited religious gatherings, in the same church, with many of the same people, to 10.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the preliminary injunction, although the court admitted that some of the nonreligious activities permitted inside and outside the church present higher risks than worship. Incredibly, the court wrote that churches can “feed the soul” in other ways than worship.

This decision now conflicts with the two 3-0 rulings Liberty Counsel obtained at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Maryville Baptist Church. This also conflicts with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against churches in two separate appeals. Thus, the Circuit Courts of Appeal are now split 2-2, which sets up an eventual case for Supreme Court review. In addition to the split in the federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, since April over 73 lower federal District Court cases have issued conflicting opinions. This does not even count state court splits.

Contrary to some media reports, the Supreme Court has not issued a ruling on the merits of any church cases. Now that there are clear conflicts with decisions by the courts of appeals, particularly between the Sixth and the Seventh Circuits, Liberty Counsel can now proceed with a petition for the Supreme Court to resolve the conflicts.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The pastors and the Romanian churches are resolved to continue to fight for religious freedom. This case and the conflicts among the courts provide an excellent opportunity for the Supreme Court to step in and stop this abuse of the First Amendment.”

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the preliminary injunction, although the court admitted that some of the nonreligious activities permitted inside and outside the church present higher risks than worship. Incredibly, the court wrote that churches can “feed the soul” in other ways than worship.

This decision now conflicts with the two 3-0 rulings Liberty Counsel obtained at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Maryville Baptist Church. This also conflicts with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against churches in two separate appeals. Thus, the Circuit Courts of Appeal are now split 2-2, which sets up an eventual case for Supreme Court review. In addition to the split in the federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, since April over 73 lower federal District Court cases have issued conflicting opinions. This does not even count state court splits.

Contrary to some media reports, the Supreme Court has not issued a ruling on the merits of any church cases. Now that there are clear conflicts with decisions by the courts of appeals, particularly between the Sixth and the Seventh Circuits, Liberty Counsel can now proceed with a petition for the Supreme Court to resolve the conflicts.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The pastors and the Romanian churches are resolved to continue to fight for religious freedom. This case and the conflicts among the courts provide an excellent opportunity for the Supreme Court to step in and stop this abuse of the First Amendment.”

SOURCE: Liberty Counsel