Small Northern Illinois Church That Defied Stay-At-Home Order Plans To Continue To Hold Services, Pastor Says

By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The pastor of a church that defied the Governor’s stay-at-home order and held services with more than 10 people last Sunday said he’ll continue holding services.

Pastor Steve Cassell said he’ll appeal a federal judge’s decision rejecting his challenge of Governor Pritzker’s order. Cassell and his Beloved Church of Lena asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order of the Governor's order, but the judge turned down the request.

Pastor Cassell said his church encourages social distancing among parishioners--aside from family members who live together--and offered people masks as they entered the church Sunday.  The minister said he did not wear a mask and didn’t notice if his congregation did. He also said he didn't pay attention whether church-goers were practicing social distancing.

"We are trying to walk tenuous line between Governor’s tyrannical overreach and the provisions that are made in the Word of God and the scriptures as to what the gathering, the assembly of the saints, should look like," he said.

Regarding last Sunday's service, Pastor Cassell said he had, "joyous tears for most of it, even though I was really intense with my ministry, because of the fact that I got to be in the room with the people I greatly love."

He said some people were in tears, they were so happy to be back in church.

The minister said that while 60-80 people normally attend services, he didn't note or count how many were there Sunday.

Pastor Cassell said he believes the coronavirus causes people to get sick and die, but does not believe the numbers are as terrible as reported.  He said he’ll be in church with his flock again next Sunday.  

"Our room was probably 100 times safer than anybody that walked into a gas station this week, anybody that’s walked into a liquor store this week," he said.

"The insinuations that I want to hurt people, that I want people sick, or I want people dead, I can’t even believe that people make those statements in a clear conscience. I can’t believe that their conscience doesn’t literally slay them. We are on the right side of the law. We’re on the right side of the Constitution and we’re on the right side of the Kingdom of God."  

Pastor Cassell said he, his family, and his church have received threats online and over the phone. He said he filed a police report in one instance.  

Lena Police Chief Steve Schaible confirms an "informational" report was filed, but that it was a second hand report. The chief said the person who had "read somewhere" there was a serious threat to the church did not want to personally file the police report, so the pastor did.

Chief Schaible said he has extra patrols keeping an eye on the church.

The pastor said he's going to continue his legal fight against the state.

"We’re going to protect our neighborhoods, but we’re not going to cower in fear. We’re not going to live in our closets. We’re not going to wear masks that even the Surgeon General said that wearing masks actually causes health problems," Pastor Cassell said.

"Do I believe that COVID-19 is out there? Absolute. Do I believe that it’s causing people to get sick and die? Without doubt. I don’t doubt that at all. Do I believe all the numbers from all of the sources that are saying how terrible it is? Not for a minute."

Pastor Cassell said he has parishioners who drive from Wisconsin, Iowa, Rockford and Chicago to attend his services.