Chicago churches hold services again despite being fined for violating stay-at-home order

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she does not answer to the president

ByJesse Kirsch WLS logo
Sunday, May 24, 2020
Coronavirus Chicago: Metro Praise International, other city churches stand in solidarity with President Trump, plan Sunday services despite Illinois' stay-at-home order
As the debate continues across the country about when to open churches, several in Chicago held mass Sunday morning.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As debate continues across the country over when to reopen churches, several in Chicago held services Sunday.

Elim Romaninan and Metro Praise International churches, which both have been fined by Chicago police for violating the stay-at-home order last week, held services again.

The pastor at Metro Praise International told ABC7 that they are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Millionaire businessman and ex-mayoral candidate Willie Willson said he's covering the fines for those churches.

RELATED: Willie Wilson voices support for 100 churches to reopen Sunday in defiance of stay-at-home order

Some of the Chicago churches are standing in solidarity with President Donald Trump, who called for houses of worship across the country to reopen this weekend despite stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Trump demands churches be allowed to reopen, threatens to 'override' governors

On Friday, the president declared houses of worship essential, and, within hours, Pritzker only went so far as to say outdoor and drive-in services would be allowed in Illinois when the state enters Phase Three of the reopening on May 29.

It's unclear what, if any, authority the president has to order houses of worship to open.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new guidelines, encouraging face coverings, holding services outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces when possible, cleaning between services, limiting gathering sizes to be in line with state orders and considering limiting singing because it may help COVID-19 spread.

Some faith leaders have asked the governor and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to follow those guidelines.

But Lightfoot said she doesn't take orders from the president.

"By no means can the president order any locality, any state, to do something that he doesn't have the power to do," she said. "And he can't do that here."

The U.S. Department of Justice has also threatened to get involved with cases that arise around potential constitutional violations.

RELATED: Justice Dept. supports downstate lawmaker's lawsuit against Illinois stay-at-home order

Department of Justice supports downstate lawmaker Darren Bailey's lawsuit against Gov. JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order.

Last week, three Chicago churches, including Metro Praise International, were fined by the city for holding in-person services with more than 10 people, and Illinois lawsuits to reopen churches have failed in recent weeks.

Other Chicago faith leaders discourage reopening too quickly, and the Archdiocese of Chicago said it is sticking to its original phased plan.

Metro Praise International said it has established guidelines that comply with the CDC's recommendations. Those included asking church attendees not to congregate or have physical contact, telling those 65 or older or with preexisting conditions to stay home and providing masks for those who don't have them.

"Remember, you are still coming at your own risk because the Mayor has already cited us for disorderly conduct for having more than 10 - even though we are doing what the President said is allowed by CDC- we have not received an 'all clear' either from the Mayor or Governor 'yet.,'" the church said on its Facebook page.

"We're limiting to what we can safely social distance. Just like if you went to Walmart or Target, you would have a 6-feet social distance bubble; that's what you get in there," senior Pastor Joseph Wyrosteck said Sunday. "The CDC has said once you are social distanced, masks are an option. That is the updated version. They will come in one door, be socially distant, sat down, then they will go out a different door. Coming and going, they have to wear the masks."