The lawyer representing two churches in Chicago fighting the city’s coronavirus guidelines said he never thought he’d see the day when city leaders would threaten to bulldoze a church for allowing its congregation to worship.
That day has arrived.
Matt Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said Wednesday that churches that he represents have received letters from the city’s Board of Health that declared them “public nuisances.”
The term may not seem like much on the surface, but he said, legally, it opens up these churches to a lot of problems. Staver read the letter on air that said the department “has the power and duty to cause all nuisances affecting the health of the public to be abated.” Staver said the letter threatened a “summary abatement,” which is legalese for the destruction of the facility without any judicial process or further notice.
Staver said the rule of law in the state is clear He said if there’s a summary abatement for an animal “you just take them down” and if it is issued for a building you “simply bulldoze it.”
He said the addition of the word “summary” is telling. That means the city can do anything it wants to stop the nuisance.
Staver said the order was issued just a day after President Trump came out and said churches were essential. He also pointed out that the Justice Department filed its own brief in Illinois challenging all the statewide orders.
He told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” that his organization filed a request for an emergency injunction pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. He said the motion will be headed to the desk of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“We need some immediate relief while this case continues to go on, because this can go on at any moment,” he said, comparing the summary abatement to Damocles’ sword.
Rev. Cristian Ionescu, the pastor of one of the churches, Elim Romanian Church, told the “Todd Starnes Show” earlier that he has been hit with citations already for violating the city’s stay-at-home order.
Metro Praise International’s Pastor Joe Wyrostek told NBC Chicago that his church was also hit with a “summary abatement” if they continue to defy orders and hold services with more than 10 people.
“We are very disappointed with all of this, including not being considered as essential in the beginning, as a church,” Wyrostek told the station.
Staver said one of the Facebook Live videos filmed from outside Ionecu’s church apparently picked up the sound of nearby gunfire. The city has been criticized of devoting its police force to monitoring churches, while it is still plagued by violence.
Todd Starnes, the radio show host, said the actions by the city are just “unacceptable.”