Did you ever think that worship would be equated with “disorderly conduct?”
Sadly, that’s the charge one pastor faced for daring to hold worship services during the shutdown.
But as a Romanian refugee who once fled communism, he wasn’t about to give up without a fight!
When Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois outlawed public gatherings due to COVID-19, most businesses and organizations bowed to the executive order.
But Reverend Daniel Chiu, lead pastor at Logos Baptist Ministries in Niles, Illinois, firmly believed it was still important for churches to meet during this time.
He even called Governor Pritzker’s order “discriminatory” against religious groups and institutions.
For Chiu, who is originally from Romania, the tyranny rising during the COVID-19 pandemic seemed uncomfortably familiar.
Communists tried to suppress religious services in Romania before Chiu left, leaving him uneasy with the new executive orders and anti-religious sentiments spreading across the United States in recent months.
“The communists also said they would be doing things for the health of society, that religious ideas were sickening the society and that by stopping the religious activities, they were protecting the society.”
“We see the same refrain here. (The government is) not protecting the people; they are infringing on our freedom.”
So Chiu and his congregation decided to stand up and exercise their right to worship. They met peacefully and without fanfare through the first month of the pandemic, but it wasn’t long before state and local officials threatened to shut the church down.
The City of Niles charged Pastor Chiu with four “disorderly conduct” citations for leading his congregation in worship.
When faced with these citations and the threat of closure, Pastor Chiu and other faith leaders in the area filed a lawsuit against the executive order.
Logos Baptist Ministries and Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church nearby sought a temporary restraining order against the governor.
They argued that churches should be allowed to continue services without “threat of criminal sanctions” by state and local officials.
And they’re right!
But the churches were denied their request by Judge Robert Gettleman who threw the lawsuit out and demanded they comply with the executive order.
According to the judge, allowing the churches to reopen or hold services would “risk the lives of congregants” and anyone they came into contact with no matter how careful the churches were.
Judge Gettleman labeled the churches’ plea as an “ill-founded and selfish” request, claiming “their interest in communal services cannot outweigh the health and safety of the public.”
“The sad reality is that places where people congregate, like churches, often act as vectors for the disease [COVID-19],” the judge added.
It seemed like the decision had been made, but Pastor Chiu was determined to stand up for his congregation’s needs.
“Every Sunday we are going to exercise our Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom,” Chiu proclaimed in response to Judge Gettleman’s decision.
“We are a body of Christ, we come together, we worship together.”
Chiu rejected the judge’s claim that the church was being selfish, asserting, “Worship is an act of public service.”
“We need to see each other and be in fellowship with each other. There is nothing selfish about that.”
He reminded the judge that houses of worship are just as necessary for the population as grocery stores and other large businesses that had remained open under executive orders.
Not only that, but the church has cooperated with social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines to protect congregants as well.
“Of course we’re concerned about the health of our people,” Pastor Chiu said.
“We are more concerned about the health of our people more than the government is.”
Chiu explained he and his congregation only wanted to be “treated the same as other institutions” during the pandemic.
“We are going to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” Pastor Chiu continued grimly.
But thankfully, the pastor didn’t need to go that far. Due to intervention from Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal firm that seeks to advance religious freedom, local authorities have dropped the “disorderly conduct” charges against Pastor Chiu.
“It is beyond belief that a pastor would be charged with ‘disorderly conduct’ for peacefully and safely holding a church service,” Liberty Counsel representatives said.
“This is shameful…it will not succeed here in America.”
Praise God the charges against Pastor Chiu have been dropped, but continue to pray for pastors and faith leaders around the country as they stand up to the government during the pandemic.