On Thursday (April 30), the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm in Chicago that was named after St. Thomas More, filed a federal lawsuit against J.B. Pritzker, the Governor of Illinois. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the Beloved Church and its pastor, Stephen Cassell, alleged that Pritzker had taken actions that demonstrated “illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practice, churches, and people of faith.”
The Beloved Church is located in Lena, Illinois, and has a congregation of about 80 people. The Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit national public interest law firm that was formed in 1997 for the purpose of defending Joseph Scheidler, who was one of the most successful pro-life leaders in the country at using pro-life activism tactics to shut down abortion clinics. The Thomas More Society came to Scheidler’s defense after he was sued by the National Organization for Women for “violating” federal antitrust and racketeering laws.
With the assistance of his lawyers, Scheidler ended up winning the case. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor on two separate occasions. The first time was in 2003, when the vote was 8 to 1 in favor of Scheidler. The second time was in 2006, when the Supreme Court Justices voted 8 to 0 in favor of Scheidler.
The Thomas Moore Society has continued to litigate cases in court to protect human life from conception to natural birth, to ensure the free expression of religion in public places, and to protect the first amendment rights of people who pray and offer counseling outside abortion clinics.
The lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the Beloved Church and its pastor alleged that Pritzker and other Illinois law enforcement and public health officials had “intentionally denigrated Illinois churches and pastors and people of faith by relegating them to second-class citizenship.”
The lawsuit criticized Pritzker for classifying churches as nonessential, while declaring that certain so-called essential businesses, which included liquor stores and dog groomers, were allowed to continue to conduct business as usual.
The creativity of the lawyers at the Thomas Moore Society was on display when they inserted language in the lawsuit that said that Pastor Cassell and the members of his church “believe that in these dark times, Illinoisans need the Spirit of Almighty God, but Pritzker’s orders have left them to settle for the lesser spirits dispensed out of the state’s liquor stores.”
During a press briefing that occurred after the lawsuit was filed, Pritzker said, “I would just urge the faith leaders, you know, who are concerned about the length of this to just put the health and safety of their congregants first. I think that’s uppermost in everybody’s minds. It’s certainly uppermost in my mind.”
Later in the day, Pritzker issued an amended stay-at-home order that included “the free exercise of religion” in the list of essential activities in which people can leave their homes to engage in. The order limited the number of people who attend church services to a maximum of 10, so that social distancing guidelines can be followed. (This is a joke considering the fact that many churches can comfortably hold more than 200 people.)
Two days before the church lawsuit was filed, news outlets reported that under the direction of Pritzker, Illinois had released nearly 4,000 prison inmates since March. A quick review of the list of inmates that were released showed that 64 of them had been convicted of murder and more than 20 additional inmates that were released had been convicted of murder-for-hire or attempted murder. Hundreds of other inmates who were released had been convicted of crimes, such as second-degree murder, armed robbery, child sexual abuse, rape, kidnapping, manslaughter, aggravated assault, domestic battery, and reproducing child pornography.
What kind of a man would release violent, hardened criminals into our communities while arrogantly denying the rights of morally upright, taxpaying citizens to freely assemble in their churches, so they could worship and pray to their Creator?
I want to share something with you that will bring some clarity to where we’re at in our society and how most people are overlooking the spiritual needs of others, while they focus their time and energy on the physical needs of others.
Last week, in my article, It’s Time To Fend For Yourself, I wrote about how our country was built upon a foundation of two religions — a secular religion that was based on the beliefs and principles of individualism, self-reliance, freedom, hard work, patriotism, and independence, and a biblical religion that was based on the beliefs and principles of the 10 Commandments, the God of the Old Testament, and the teachings of the Son of God.
After discussing the two religions, I provided some recommendations as to what we should be doing to prepare to fend for ourselves in the post-pandemic world that we are entering into. In response to my article, a woman that I do not know posted a comment that opened up my mind to something that I had not been thinking about. The woman identified herself as “Kate.” Here’s what she said in response to my article:
Actually, I believe that Christians have been engulfed by fear. Not just fear of a truly deadly virus, which has a strong measure of prudence, but creativity and hope seem to have taken a backseat.
Rather, the fear I reference is a nonsensical fear of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Christ thirsts for men, and mankind is thirsting for Christ, yet our fear binds us, keeping us silent. Somewhere the corporal works of mercy have usurped the greater good of the spiritual works of mercy, proposing Christ. This causes us to establish Christian missions where making Christ known is not the central purpose of the mission. Every mission Mother Teresa established had one purpose: to make Christ known.
When we love someone enough to share our deepest love of Christ with them, then we have loved as Christ loves. Christ came to bear witness to the light, and He asks us to do the same for every living creature. In my own life, I have fed thousands of friends and strangers earthly food from my kitchen, but it is my invitation to pray the rosary or visit Christ in Adoration that transforms their souls. The world thirsts for God. We have an obligation to preach the Gospel, and woe to us if we don’t. 1 Cor 9:16
There was one sentence that jumped out at me when I read Kate’s comment: Somewhere the corporal works of mercy have usurped the greater good of the spiritual works of mercy, proposing Christ.
I’ve written about the corporal and spiritual works of mercy on several occasions, but it never occurred to me to that in our modern world, many decent Christians have followed the lead of our so-called leaders and have gravitated more toward the corporal works of mercy, while ignoring or avoiding the spiritual works of mercy.
I’m going to discuss this topic next week.