SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois anti-abortion nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit challenging Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s social gathering restrictions, arguing it should be excluded from caps on attendees to charity, planning and educational events.
Illinois Right to Life’s lawsuit was filed in the Northern District just over one week after the state Republican Party filed a near-identical argument in the same court. The two groups are represented by the Chicago-based firm Liberty Justice Center.
The cases center around the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause — because Pritzker’s executive order contains a carve-out for churches and has not been enforced against systemic racism protestors, it should not apply to the nonprofit, either, they claim.
According to the court document — written by Daniel Suhr, the attorney also representing the Republican Party — religious institutions are permitted to hold socially-distanced services of more than 10 people. Faith-based associations are “encouraged to consult and follow the recommended practices” published by the Illinois Department of Public Health, but “are not required to obey them.”
Illinois Right to Life already canceled several previously-planned events, rescheduled others and received “minimal” attendance at ones they were able to hold, Suhr wrote. The group argued that due to the nature of its advocacy work, remote alternatives are not helpful.
“IRL believes that internet-based alternatives are not sufficient to spread its speech effectively. Abortion is a deeply personal topic; the issues IRL works on are some of the most personal and emotional decisions that women and others face in their lifetimes, and conversations around them often turn emotional,” Suhr wrote in the organization’s court document. “A video conference cannot replace the interpersonal interaction called for around this topic.”
The group is asking a federal judge to rule Pritzker’s social gathering restrictions unconstitutional and bar the government from enforcing the executive order as it applies to Illinois Right to Life. It is also requesting to be reimbursed for attorneys’ fees.