Tags: Coronavirus | J.B. Pritzker | Stephen Cassell | Illinois | lockdown | pastor

Illinois Pastor: I'll Be 'Preaching My Heart Out on Mother's Day'

woman holding a mother's day card and pink flowers
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Thursday, 07 May 2020 02:44 PM

An Illinois pastor, who has repeatedly defied the state’s ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker is not going to stop him from preaching this Sunday.

“I will be in the pulpit preaching my heart out on Mother’s Day,” Stephen Cassell told NBC News.

Cassell’s Beloved Church is located in a small farm village called Lena. Last Sunday, he told NBC the congregation received bomb and death threats when it reopened for the first time since March 31. 

In the interim, Cassell held online services, which he isn’t a fan of doing, he said. 

“I don’t believe there is such a thing as an online church,” Cassell said. “The definition of a church is a gathering. We had to forego one of the core values of what we are.”

Cassell tried to get a judge to rule that Pritzker’s stay-at-home order is unconstitutional, but came up short. 

U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee rejected the church’s request for a temporary restraining order and sided with the governor last week, NBC reports. 

In his ruling, Lee pointed out that limiting gatherings to 10 people or going online are “imperfect substitutes for an in-person service where all eighty members of Beloved Church can stand together, side-by-side, to sing, pray, and engage in communal fellowship.” 

But, he said the order “passes constitutional muster.”

Cassell had to move his services to social media platforms after he was hit with a cease-and-desist order on March 31 by the Stephenson County Department of Health. 

Cassell said the only reason they went online was to avoid fines and to find a lawyer who would help them take the battle to the Supreme Court if necessary. He said the federal lawsuit prompted Pritzker to change his April 30 order and declare churchgoing an essential activity.

Officers from the Lena Police Department showed up at Sunday services last week to count the number of people at church. The numbers exceeded the 10-person cap. 

“The Lena Police Department will be documenting what is happening at the church but there has been no determination about who would be enforcing the social distancing rules,” Lena Town Attorney Dominick Lanzito told NBC News.

Cassell said the church is providing masks to congregants who need one. He said the church is large enough to social distance properly. 

“I will guarantee you that our church is safer than the gas station or the liquor store in town where 30 people are lined up and not wearing masks,” he said. “There is plenty of room in our church for folks to spread around and be safe.”

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An Illinois pastor, who has repeatedly defied the state's ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker is not going to stop him from preaching this Sunday. "I will be in the pulpit preaching my heart out on Mother's Day," Stephen Cassell...
J.B. Pritzker, Stephen Cassell, Illinois, lockdown, pastor
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2020-44-07
Thursday, 07 May 2020 02:44 PM
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