The legal struggle that started in 2010 continues for Saul Juarez, Elias Juarez, Oscar Sanchez, and Ruben Sanchez, four followers of Jesus trying to stop gang violence in their neighborhoods through evangelism and advocacy—something the government almost stopped them from doing.

Becoming a Christian is defined by a choice to turn away from an old life of sin, dedicating oneself to living a changed one. For Elias, Ruben, and Oscar, this calling to change took shape in a very real way when they left the Latin Kings to follow Jesus.

“I testify that we are all changed men by the power of God and that we are not the same men from a few years back…Our lives are a living testimony to those who are in the same place we were in at one point in our past,” said Elias Juarez.

After putting their lifestyle as gang members behind them, they knew it was important to use their experiences with Jesus to help others find hope and the strength to leave gang life. The men were able to help change futures, ministering to current gang members as well as mentoring at-risk children in schools.

Until the Kane County State’s Attorney and the City of Elgin sued them.

The lawsuit, which sought a court order prohibiting alleged gang members from being in contact with one another, named 85 people. The list included Elias, Ruben, Oscar, and even Saul who had never actually been in a gang, but was the one who led his brother Elias to Jesus in the first place. Since the Juarez and Sanchez brothers were being labeled as active gang members, their anti-gang efforts were dramatically curtailed.

The state continued to pursue injunctions against these men for another four years, requiring them to take on excessive financial burdens for defense. In early 2018, the Kane County Circuit Court denied all claims by Kane County and Elgin against each man. Nevertheless, their innocence has yet to be fully vindicated.

The Juarez and Sanchez brothers’ attorneys at Mauck & Baker have since appealed to the Illinois appellate court, second district to acknowledge their clients’ request for damages and repayment of legal fees for violation of their civil and religious rights.                                             Ruben and Oscar Sanchez march against gang violence

The Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act states a provision of judicial relief in cases such as this:

“If a person’s exercise of religion has been burdened in violation of this Act, that person may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and may obtain appropriate relief against a government. A party who prevails in an action to enforce this Act against a government is entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred in maintaining the claim or defense (775 ILCS 35/20).”

These men courageously left their old lives behind and want to help others do the same. We want to support their ability to continue these efforts.

“While many good people are working hard to lead young men out of the gangs, my brother and the Sanchez brothers have a strong, unique testimony that’s been forcefully silenced—for no valid reason—for most of a decade. I wonder how many men and boys we could have reached during that time. How many wouldn’t be gang members—wouldn’t be dead—if not for the stubborn unwillingness of government officials to see the truth and use some common sense” – Saul Juarez (photo: Alliance Defending Freedom)

If you feel led, please pray for Sorin Leahu, associate attorney at Mauck & Baker who has handled most of the briefs for this case and will be presenting the oral argument in court. Ask that he will be able to present the evidence clearly, and that the court will appreciate the need to protect religious freedom.

Posted on Tue, January 15, 2019 by Mauck Baker