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US judge rejects churches' challenge to stay-at-home order
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US judge rejects churches' challenge to stay-at-home order

Church stock

A cross in front of a church's stained glass window.

CHICAGO — A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a challenge to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s authority to impose stay-at-home orders on churches in the battle against the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman denied a request for a temporary restraining order by two churches. Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago and Logos Baptist Ministries in Niles wanted to hold worship services while reducing seating, designating entry and exit points, offering hand sanitizer and cleaning facilities. Elim Romanian held services Sunday despite Pritzker's order.

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The judge dismissed the comparison between churches and grocery stores. He asserted churches are more comparable to schools, movie theaters or concert halls, where people are also not gathering.

Gettleman noted COVID-19 can easily spread in church despite the efforts of congregants, adding the churches’ desire to hold services "cannot outweigh the health and safety of the public."

The churches have filed notice they will appeal Gettleman’s ruling.

Gettleman’s decision follows that of U.S. District Court Judge John Lee, who two weeks ago ruled against a northwest Illinois church that sought a temporary restraining in order to hold worship services.

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Pritzker has modified his order to allow the "free exercise of religion," but limited religious gatherings to no more than 10 people.

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