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Article posted: 10/23/2013 6:28 PM

4 men continue fight against Elgin gang lawsuit

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Four men are still fighting a lawsuit filed by the city of Elgin, which claims they are Latin King members and wants them to stop congregating and associating with each other.

Elisa Juarez, Saul Juarez, Oscar Sanchez and Ruben Sanchez argue the lawsuit infringes on their First Amendment rights and religious freedom because they preach to gang members in an effort to get them to leave the group and convert to a new religion.

"They have a special mission to go to members of the Latin Kings and persuade them to leave the gang and believe in Jesus. They are all born-again believers in Jesus," defense attorney John Mauck told Judge David Akemann at a recent court hearing.

Mauck maintains the four men were not in the gang when the city filed the lawsuit in September 2010, and that Saul Juarez has never been in a gang.

Akemann passed the matter to Judge Thomas Mueller, who initially ruled against the four men in July 2012. Mueller, however, has been transferred to oversee juvenile court, and a hearing date has not been set.

Prosecutors maintain the men are free to preach as much as they want, just not in Elgin.

Mauck wants Mueller to reconsider his decision to dismiss several affirmative defenses put forth by the four men. Specifically, Mauck says, the lawsuit infringes on the men's right to free speech and freedom of religion, and new evidence since the lawsuit was filed shows the men are not gang members.

Mauck argues the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998 also provides protections for the men because the Illinois Street Gang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act -- the law on which the city based its suit -- "prohibits, restricts, narrows or burdens" the defendants' exercise of religion without a compelling governmental interest.

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