Cicero officials close church amid disrepair concerns

CICERO, Ill. (WLS) -- A crumbling church in south suburban Cicero is closed after the building was considered in such disrepair that it was a threat to the safety of the congregation.

Like any old building, maintenance is required, but the City of Cicero says that hasn't happened. The building was dedicated in 1924.

The building commissioner said he's been to the building several times. He even attended service last Sunday when they were using propane heaters. But with outstanding safety violations - including no heat and no water - the commissioner says he had to close the building Thursday.

"Anyone going inside this structure is at serious risk of injury or perhaps even death," said Cicero Building Commissioner Tom Tomschin.

Video from Cicero shows what inspectors found on the school side of the building.

"When I saw the pictures I could not believe how bad is was, I was very surprised," said Gary Acosta, a neighbor.

The church's pastor says the school side was not in use and they had been trying to make repairs.

"A lot of individuals in our congregation have suffered along with America with the loss of jobs and loss of finances for our church," said Bishop Herman Jackson, Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple. "It may be difficult to keep up."

Bishop Jackson spoke with ABC7 by phone from Atlanta where he lives and travels to Chicago for services. He suspects there may be an underlying motivation for the attention and action.

"I felt like things would be different, it's ok for an African American man to have a church in a city that would not let Dr. Martin Luther King march for civil rights," Jackson said.

"I can definitely say that is not the case," Tomschin said. "I care about human life no matter what color the person is."

As things stand now, the violations can be appealed. And if the gas service is restored Friday or Saturday, the city will allow services to proceed Sunday.

Regardless, Bishop Jackson says there will be Sunday service.
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