Illinois officials have lifted a de facto ban on in-person worship, signaling a victory for churches challenging the restrictions.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday he had lifted tough limitations intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
“We’re not providing restrictions,” Mr. Pritzker said. “We’re simply providing the best recommendations that we can for keeping people safe, so we hope the pastors will follow that guidance.”
The shift is a dramatic turnaround, as nearly a dozen or more churches had filed legal action, including one request for an injunction that has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This is a total and complete victory for people of faith,” Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, said in a statement. “Today marks the end of a shameful chapter of discrimination by the government of the Land of Lincoln against house of worship and religious leaders.”
Mr. Breen’s law firm had filed three lawsuits calling the state’s limitations on worship discriminatory, including one on behalf of five churches. Mr. Breen says his lawsuits led to Mr. Pritzker lifting restrictions on drive-in services and outdoor worship.
The vast majority of houses of worship in Illinois had complied with Mr. Pritzker’s stay-at-home restrictions, hoping to blunt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.