Illinois Republican Party v. J. B. Pritzker, No. 20-2175 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
During the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois Governor Pritzker issued executive orders designed to limit the virus’s opportunities to spread, similar to orders in other states. Executive Order 2020‐43 (EO43, June 26, 2020), imposing a 50-person cap on gatherings, states: This Executive Order does not limit the free exercise of religion. To protect the health and safety of faith leaders, staff, congregants, and visitors, religious organizations and houses of worship are encouraged to consult and follow the recommended practices and guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health.... the safest practices ... are to provide services online, in a drive‐in format, or outdoors (and consistent with social distancing requirements and guidance regarding wearing face coverings), and to limit indoor services to 10 people. Religious organizations are encouraged to take steps to ensure social distancing, the use of face coverings, and implementation of other public health measures. Emergency and governmental functions enjoy the same exemption.
The Republican Party challenged the “favored” treatment of religion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of injunctive relief. Because the exercise of religion involves more than simple speech, the equivalency urged by the Republicans between political speech and religious exercise is a false one. If there were a problem with the religious exercise carve‐out, the state would be entitled to return to a regime in which even religious gatherings are subject to the mandatory cap.