The Illinois Republican Party, along with other GOP groups, has filed a lawsuit over its right to assemble as a political group during the coronavirus pandemic, one week after Gov. J.B. Pritzker marched alongside protesters to fight police brutality.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court late Monday, claimed that while religious groups and protesters are allowed to convene in groups greater than 10 under coronavirus lockdown, political groups share the same protections under the Constitution -- yet are not allowed to gather.
After multiple lawsuits, Pritzker on May 29 lifted a ban on in-person worship, listing it as an “essential activity” but strongly recommended services continue to be held remotely.
Pritzker has attended several large gatherings in the wake of the death of George Floyd, defending his appearances by saying he was exercising his First Amendment right.
The suit claimed “in-person contact is the most persuasive form of communicating ideas” for a political party, with the 2020 election just months away.
“Yet, unlike churches, political parties are barred from gathering in groups greater than 10 under the governor’s executive order. And unlike protesters against police brutality, they have not been given an exemption based on sympathy, recognition, and participation,” the suit said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The lawsuit cites violations of the First and 14th Amendments.
“Democrats in the state hold almost every lever of power, and the only thing providing a check on their power, the Illinois Republican Party, isn’t even allowed to get together to meet or to properly plan and network for an election [that] is only five months away,” Illinois Republican Party Co-Chairman Tim Schneider said. “This is fundamentally wrong, and as this lawsuit contends, a violation of our First Amendment right.”
Schneider called Pritzker’s appearance at recent protests “incandescent hypocrisy on following his own orders.”
The party said it needs to gather in person for its annual convention, as well as informal strategy meetings, rallies, bus tours and house parties.
“There simply is no substitute for the energy, enthusiasm, personal connections to a candidate and media coverage generated by a rally, a bus tour or a fly-around. Politics is a people business and it is most effective when people connect in person,” the lawsuit said.