Seize and Destroy: The War on American Churches

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In the wee hours of Sunday, May 17, 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tried to incite hatred against our client, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church.

That morning, with no notice, the mayor banned people from parking in their own curbside parking spots. Every street-side car for nine blocks surrounding Elim Romanian Pentecostal church was towed. A letter was sent to residents declaring that their cars had been towed because of the church's refusal to bow to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's illegal church shutdown orders.

The message to Pastor Ionescu and his church was clear—give up now or the entire neighborhood will be punished for your defiance, along with all the church's members.

The people of Elim's alleged "defiance" was simply exercising their constitutional right to attend the church of their choice—worshipping with more than 10 people!

Such tactics were familiar to Elim's members and pastors, most of whom had escaped Communist Romania not many years before. In Romania under a dictator, communists regularly punished neighbors to force compliance through brutal tyranny.

Elim Romanian Pentecostal's Pastor Ionescu, having lived through this type of repression in Romania, pulled no punches in describing what the mayor was up to:

"The mayor is inciting hate against the church, which is very sad. A lot of our members risked their lives to escape communism only to find it germinating in 2020 under Mayor Lightfoot in Chicago."

When intimidating the church's neighbors did not work, Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent police cars to block the entrance to the church's privately contracted parking lot!

The message was clear: Don't come to church or else.

This, too, was familiar to the faithful Christians of Elim. The communists regularly used the "Securitate" (aka secret police) to act as a visible display of force and a reminder that the government could take anything it wanted, whenever it wanted, by force.

Having learned the lessons of tyranny while living under Nicolae Ceausescu's Romanian Socialist Republic, our clients Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries refused to cave to illegal and unconstitutional edicts issued by politicians apparently determined to follow the socialist playbook of tyranny.

Despite threats, these churches continued to obey God and keep their churches open—just as they did in Communist Romania.

"We prayed for the mayor and the governor almost every evening since March 19. We will continue to pray for them. Yet we are also aware of our constitutional rights. Their effort to intimidate us will make us stronger," Pastor Ionescu told the local media.

And just like in Romania, Illinois' tyrants took the next step in terror by threatening to seize and destroy Elim Romanian Pentecostal's beautiful, structurally sound, completely sanitized and socially distanced church building.

Only after we sought an emergency injunction against the lawless Illinois governor and his equally lawless Chicago mayor did the state of Illinois temporarily drop their church restrictions. However, it appears the governor did this only to avoid a showdown at the Supreme Court, as Illinois Gov. . Pritzker refuses to promise the court that he will not re-impose his outrageous anti-First Amendment, unconstitutional orders.

And the "Summary Abatement" threat to seize and destroy Elim's beautiful church building has not been revoked.

While Gov. Pritzker may have avoided the temporary injunction we sought from the Supreme Court earlier this year, he will not avoid answering to the highest court in the land after all.

Liberty Counsel filed with the U.S. Supreme Court last week, asking the high court to review our full case against the tyrannical governor. This case, like the other federal and state lawsuits we have pending on behalf of churches under attack, boils down to one simple question:

Is religious freedom still free in America? Or will the once-free U.S.A. and the God-given unalienable rights outlined in our constitution be destroyed by godless tyrants seeking to shutter God's churches and silence God's people?"

Religious freedom—the bedrock of America—is in danger. If we fail to adequately defend religious liberty, elected officials and petty bureaucrats will be able to dictate what our churches may or may not do or say, and even jeopardize their right to exist.

Humanity has seen this tyranny in the oppressive socialist and communist countries around the world. We must not let it happen here.

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