NILES, IL — Village staff last week asked to dismiss disorderly conduct citations against a Niles pastor accused of violating Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home coronavirus order earlier this year.
At a Sept. 15 hearing, a village prosecutor asked the presiding administrative hearing officer to toss out four local ordinance violation citations the Niles Police Department issued in May to the Rev. Daniel Chiu, police said, citingbetween the pastor's attorney and village officials, as well as potential challenges to prosecuting the charge.
About two weeks before the first citations, Logos Baptist Ministries, where Chiu is a pastor, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit jointly with a church in Chicago challenging the governor's order restricting gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
A federal judge upheld Pritzker's order on May 13, calling the churches' request for a preliminary injunction and "blatant refusal" to follow the order " ."
Following the denial of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, Chiu vowed to continue holding services and the limits on religious gatherings to persecution faced by Christians under communism during the 1970s in his native Romania.
On the first Sunday after the ruling, Niles police issued the first two citations to Chiu, according to Cmdr. Tony Scipione. Officers issued him another pair the following Sunday.
Attorneys for the congregations filed an appeal of Gettleman's order before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied May 29. Changes to the governor's COVID-19 executive orders that took effect May 31 eliminated the capacity limits on religious services. Pritzker's lawyers argued that eliminated any need for emergency injunctive relief, making the appeal moot.
Liberty Counsel, which represented Chiu's church and Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in the case, issued a statement after the village dropped the disorderly conduct citations and the threat of an $800 fine.
“It is beyond belief that a pastor would be charged with ‘disorderly conduct’ for peacefully and safely holding a church service," founder Matt Staver said. "Think about it — a pastor who survived Communist Romania is charged with ‘disorderly conduct’ for holding a church service in America — the Land of the Free. This is shameful. The repression against the church under Communism failed, and it will not succeed here in America.”