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Public Health Emergency: Legal Preparedness & Response

Illinois Republican Party, et. al. v. Pritzker

Overview

Illinois Republican Party, et. al. v. Pritzker (U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, September 3, 2020): The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block Illinois Governor Pritzker’s COVID-19 order limiting all gatherings (except for religious purposes) to 50 persons. Rather, religious organizations were “encouraged” to consult and follow recommended state health department guidelines. The state Republican Party challenged the order, arguing that preferential treatment for religious gatherings contravenes the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, because groups larger than 50 are permitted to gather for worship, but for no other purpose. Noting that “the Free Exercise Clause has always been about more than speech,” the court found the Governor’s accommodation to be consistent with the “privileged position” of religious exercise under the First Amendment given the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Governor is under no obligation “to treat all gatherings alike” and was entitled to carve out protections for religious gatherings. Read the full opinion here

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – November 16, 2020.

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