Chicago Reopening: Lightfoot warns churches, worshipers who plan to defy stay-at-home order through Sunday service

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As Chicagoans and the rest of the country struggle to find a balance when it comes to reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, some establishments, like churches, are looking to take matters into their own hands.

For those who threaten to defy the state and local orders, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has sent her own warning.

"This is not playing Russian Roulette. This is playing with a gun that is fully loaded and cocked," Lightfoot said.

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"I feel that if we're able to go to Walmart or Walgreens, we should be able to go to church," said Jimmy Lee Tillman II.

Tillman is a South Sider who said he plans to go to church this Sunday at his Englewood house of worship in defiance of the state's stay-at-home order.

"I'm not going to let the government tell me how I can worship, when I can worship and where I can worship. This is America and I have a right to worship," he said.

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The pastor at the New Canaan Land Mount Baptist Church, where Tillman plans to attend, said he's expecting to have a traditional in-person service. The pastor said his plan is to keep the attendance under 10 people, while still requiring churchgoers to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she's reached out to several other local churches planning to have full Sunday services and warned them that if they reopen, she has no problem taking enforcement action.

"We've been in contact with those churches, both by letter but also in contact with other leaders and tried to engage them in conversation rather than being in conflict," she said.

The mayor wouldn't share the specifics of what, if any, enforcement actions would be taken, but she said she cannot look away from non-compliance.

The warning comes a day after millionaire businessman and former candidate for mayor, Willie Wilson, threw his support behind the effort to reopen churches.

Meanwhile, churchgoers like Tillman say churches are part of the foundation of the African American community, and fear that if they don't reopen soon the financial impact of the pandemic will claim them too.

"In this time of fear and crisis, which most citizens in the state have, I feel that our ministers and our pastors are the only ones that can ease our pain and fear," Tillman said.
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