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Courts clip Constitution

By M.D. Kittle

Wisconsin Spotlight  | May 27, 2020 

Downstate Illinois Judge Michael McHaney’s passionate defense of liberty last week echoed the sentiments of many who see abuse of power in state and local lockdown orders during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

But the Clay County judge’s argument that “Illinois citizens are not being governed, they are being ruled” isn’t shared by other judges in the Land of Lincoln willing to cast aside the constitution amid a crisis.   

Despite his lambasting of Pritzker, McHaney’s narrow ruling doesn’t undo the liberal governor’s lockdown; it only provides some limited relief for a local business owner who the judge found was irreparably harmed by the government’s actions. 

After Friday’s ruling, Pritzker accused the Clay County judge of “having his own political agenda.” Pritzker critics shot back that the constitution is not an agenda. 

Illinois’ lockdown, down to its final few days, unlike Wisconsin’s extended state stay-at-home orders has survived court challenges. Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ lockdown. The court’s conservative majority ruled 4-3 that the emergency order, extended by Evers’ Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, violated the Legislature’s oversight role. But justices also noted the constitutional abuses of the lockdown. 

In Illinois, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Pritzker’s emergency order “does not discriminate against religious activities. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan bars places of worship from holding religious services with 10 or more people. A Phase Four of the plan will eventually allow 50 or fewer congregants. 

“We should have the right to go to church and practice our religion, our beliefs, just as much as anyone has the right to go feed their soul, their bodies, at Walmart with food,” Chicago’s Metro Praise International Church parishioner Albertina Cruz told NBC5 on Sunday. 

Metro Praise International’s Pastor Joe Wyrostek told the Chicago TV station he’s received a letter from the city’s health department which threatened “summary abatement” if they continue to hold services at capacities greater than 10.

“We are very disappointed with all of this, including not being considered as essential in the beginning, as a church,” said Wyrostek.

Chicago’s far left Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, described President Donald Trump’s recent call for lifting restrictions on places of worship “dangerous and foolish.”  She’s threatened to fine churches that don’t follow the rules. 

Meanwhile, Sangamon County Judge Raylene DeWitte Grischow found Running Central Inc. had not demonstrated irreparable harm from Pritzker’s extended order, even as the retailer, like so many others, was forced to shut down. Owner Adam White claims the Pritzker administration is not authorized to issue multiple emergency orders, which it did.  

The judge disagreed, effectively agreeing with the state, which asserts the governor has the authority to declare multiple emergency orders, and that protecting public health trumps the constitution. The adverse economic impact of the order “does not outweigh the Governor’s interest in protecting the citizens of the state of Illinois,” Grischow wrote in her ruling. 

But what happens when the people who issue the orders don’t follow them? That’s a point McHaney, the Clay County judge, made in his fierce criticism of Pritzker and his lockdown. He noted that Pritzker’s family members had traveled between Illinois and Florida and Wisconsin during the pandemic, in violation of the governor’s order banning “nonessential” travel. 

“(W)hen laws do not apply to those who make them, people are not being governed, they are being ruled,” McHaney wrote. 

And when judges uphold government orders or laws that negate civil liberties, are they violating their chief duty as jurists? 

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