Illinois Pastor Defies Government Lockdown Order, Reopens Church Services
Pastor says order is 'a massive violation of the First Amendment'
Illinois pastor Stephen Cassell of Beloved Church refused to adhere to the government stay-at-home order by reopening his church doors for service.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order said that churches of more than 50 members would not be allowed to gather for over a year due to the coronavirus.
But Cassell said the order was “a massive violation of the First Amendment.”
“We received a cease and desist order from the local health department on the 31st of March with the threats of up to four years of jail and thousands and thousands of dollars in fines,” Cassell said.
“It took us about four weeks to get all of our legal wranglings in order, in order for us to open up with protection and safety.”
The pastor added that his church would do what it can to protect congregants from spreading the coronavirus.
As part of the church's precautions, it requires the congregation to wear masks and maintain safe social distancing.
Cassell said his church was at the very least as safe as “the 300 people standing in line at the Walmart.”
Illinois has only chosen what they deem “essential” businesses to stay open.
But Cassell took issue with the decision.
“[The order] stands in stark contrast to our founding fathers because, if you were to ask them, the essential businesses were the church, the press, and the peaceable assembly of the people.”
But critics of Cassell have been acting Romans 13, a chapter in the Bible that discusses submitting to governmental authority.
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Cassell said they where misreading of the chapter.
“Romans 13 talks about jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of righteous government,' he said.
"Some of the language that’s being used in Romans 13 is that they are there to protect moral and biblical rights and so there is no moral or biblical right that I should follow that violates Hebrews 10:25, which says that you are not to forsake the assembly or yourselves together,” the Beloved Church pastor added.
“When they stand in contrast like they do, then we have an actual moral obligation to, in a legal way which is exactly what we did, in a legal way to fight against the jurisdiction of the government.”
He added that the very author of Romans 13, the Apostle Paul, broke several laws in his own time.
“Here’s the other ironic thing: Romans 13 was written by Paul."
"We have scriptural and historical context for Paul being arrested three times for breaking the law. So the person that says ‘don’t break the law’ is the person that got arrested three times — biblically — got arrested three times, and we can speculate up to six times that Paul was arrested for breaking the law.”