Dozens of churchgoers defy Illinois' stay-at-home order, Lightfoot to issue citations

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot wears a mask as she prepares to speak about the coronavirus economic recovery plan on April 23, 2020. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Churchgoers in Chicago could face citations for attending in-person services on Sunday, according to the mayor's office.

Dozens of churches across the country, including a handful in Illinois, participated in "Peaceably Gather Sunday," organized by Kentucky pastor Brian Gibson, which sought to defy states' coronavirus stay-at-home orders. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker's order doesn't allow more than 10 people at a place of worship.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city was prepared to enforce the orders against houses of worship that hold in-person services, and though Chicago police said there were no arrests made or citations issued Sunday, that could change in the coming days, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The local districts are reviewing reports of large gatherings that took place today at various establishments not abiding by the Stay at Home order,” Lightfoot said Sunday night in a statement. “Following that review, the Department will issue and mail citations where necessary."

Lightfoot, who defended a haircut because she is the "public face" of the city, warned arrests could be made earlier this month, saying, "We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we need to, we will arrest you and we will take you to jail," FOX 32 reports.

Joseph Wyrostek, the pastor at Metro Praise International Church in the city's Belmont Cargin neighborhood, waved the church's flag at protesters who were upset that people were attending church on Sunday, NBC 5 reports.

"We've got social distancing, masks, no interaction, let's go in and have church," Wyrostek said. "You going to go to Walmart, Target today, let's go to church."

Willie Wilson, a local businessman, spoke against Lightfoot at a service in Philadelphia Romanian Church of God in Ravenswood, where the pastor, Florin Cimpean, called the church a "spiritual hospital" needed to help a sick and dying world.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during the daily press briefing regarding the coronavirus pandemic Sunday, May 3, 2020, at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“[Illinois Gov. J.B.] Pritzker has shown total disdain and disrespect for the church," Wilson, a former mayoral candidate against Lightfoot, said.

Cristian Ionescu, the pastor of Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago, held services with more than 100 people on Sunday after the church was denied a request for a temporary restraining order last week by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman rejected the comparison between churches and grocery stores in his ruling and, instead, said they are more comparable to schools, movie theaters or concert halls, where no people are currently gathering.

Jeremy Dys, First Liberty Institute lawyer who represented the church, told FOX 32 that Pritzker's order is "clear discrimination."


"What's important to remember for the governor and for every Illinoian is the Constitution has not taken the day off. It is still in full force and effect, and these religious exercise rights, it is a free exercise of religion, not a suggestion," he said.

The ruling came a week after another church, The Beloved Church of Lena, represented by Thomas More Society, failed in its challenge against the governor's orders.

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