Pritzker Changes Course On Houses of Worship, Diocese of Springfield To Open In-Person Services Next Weekend

By Benjamin Cox on May 29, 2020 at 7:20am

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh called on the State of Illinois to respond to an emergency request challenging Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay at home order last night. Kavanaugh is the justice assigned by geography to a request filed by Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and the Logos Baptist Ministries in Niles. The church has held in-person services since May 10th in defiance of the order.

The church has previous had a lawsuit thrown out on May 14th by Illinois Judge Robert Gettleman. The suit sought a temporary restraining order to allow services to continue without “threat of criminal sanctions” by state and local officials. The congregants of the church have allegedly been following social distancing guidelines and requiring masks for attendance, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Governor J.B. Pritzker acknowledged that guidance for houses of worship not previously mentioned in his Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan are currently being undertaken. “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.”

Kavanaugh will have the ability to rule on the emergency request alone or the option to bring it before the full court. Justice Elena Kagan is making a similar ruling on a similar case in the State of California.

On the announcement of the new rules by Governor Pritzker, the Diocese of Springfield announced that Bishop Thomas Paprocki has granted permission for public mass to be celebrated beginning the weekend of June 6th & 7th. Attendance limits have been placed to 25% of capacity at worship spaces. Diocesan staff had already been preparing a training and certification process to prepare parishes to open public Masses with proper precautions, including detailed cleaning protocols and communication plans to parishioners, and limited attendance.

Parishes will be required to have a Parish Response Team, who will need to attend a mandatory training webinar and submit a readiness checklist for certification prior to being able to celebrate public Masses. Our Saviour Parish began drive-thru services and communion this past weekend.

Bishop Paprocki said in a letter to parishioners yesterday that he was pleased that the government had now recognized houses of worship essential. He said the diocese must remain cautious and vigilant against resurgence of infection while parishioners return to proper care of their spiritual health.