In 1860, a group of Methodist ministers and businessmen, including the future war hero and Illinois Governor John L. Beveridge, began gathering annually on a scenic spot of land along the Des Plaines River to engage in religious worship and fellowship. By 1867, the property was acquired and a charter was granted by the Illinois legislature and a permanent location was established to host religious services. Initially serving the people of the Chicago area, people in the surrounding communities and the entire Midwest gathered for revival meetings and other religious services hosted at the camp.
In recent years the Campground suffered an increase in frequent flooding, the intensity and duration of which far exceeded anything the Campground experienced in its previous long history. Upon investigation, it was determined that the surge of flood damage to the facilities was the result of novel flooding infrastructure owned and operated by the City. The substantial damage to the facilities, many of which are over 100 years old, have hindered the Campground’s ability to achieve its ministry objectives.
Prior to 2020, the Campground and city had a positive working relationship and were working toward finding solutions to the flooding issues.
But that all changed when the Campground exercised its right to freely exercise its religion by hosting a religious revival that resisted the City’s Covid-19 mandates, which would have prevented the Campground from holding virtually any religious gatherings. After that the City turned up the pressure and began taking increasingly aggressive action to shut down the Campground permanently.
In addition to the City’s attempts to demolish the overwhelming majority of the Campground’s structures, they also seek to impose the cost of the demolitions and related fines back on the Campground. Such actions would bankrupt the Campground allowing the City take the property and forever extinguish the Campground’s ability host religious gatherings on the historic site.
First Liberty Institute along with the law firms of Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Pluymert, MacDonal & Fee, Ltd., are defending the campground in state court, arguing that the city is violating constitutional, state, and federal law by retaliating against the Campground for hosting a Christian revival in defiance of the city’s unlawful COVID-19 restrictions.
“They wanted to eliminate the campground. We’ve seen this before when the local government is met with blowback,” Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys said. “It seems like retribution. That’s not how this country has operated throughout its history. The campground is now being punished for daring to challenge the city.”