Following through with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s promise to take action against churches that violate social distancing rules, the Chicago Police Department issued $500 fines to three separate houses of worship that held services over the weekend, city officials said.
Police cited Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, Philadelphia Romanian Church of God and Metro Praise International for their services.
Police also acknowledged temporarily banning parking near churches “as a precaution to prevent planned large gatherings from taking place.”
“The Chicago Police Department has been working to ensure full compliance with the (stay-at-home) order,” the department said. “As part of this effort, we continue to ask everyone to help slow the spread of the virus by staying home and practicing social distancing so that once we have begun to recover and reopen, residents can return to their religious services in a safe manner.”
Gospel singer and businessman Willie Wilson, meanwhile, released a statement saying he would pay the fines. Wilson ran for mayor in 2019 and won several African American wards in the election’s first round, then endorsed Lightfoot against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Their relationship frayed last year, however, and he’s been an outspoken critic of Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s handling of the stay-at-home order for churches.
“The governor and mayor continue to trample on our constitutional rights while hiding behind a stay-at-home order that treats the church as non-essential,” he said in a statement.
On Monday, Lightfoot said the city would be fining churches that had more people than allowed under the statewide stay-at-home order during the weekend.
Lightfoot spent last week asking churches to abide by social distancing rules and warning that she would take action against churches that refused.
But on Sunday, hundreds of people defied Pritzker’s stay-at-home order to attend church anyway, and the mayor’s office warned that violators may be cited after review.
The dispute kicked off a week ago after Metro Praise International Church on the Northwest Side opened its doors for in-person services in an act that church officials described as “passive resistance” to Pritzker’s ongoing stay-at-home order.
That defiance led Lightfoot to tweet, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing. When you gather like this, you are putting yourself and your loved ones in serious danger.”
Wilson spoke at Philadelphia Romanian Church of God over the weekend.
“I tell everybody this year, wherever I go, practice your social distancing, do what the signs say, do what the laws say, but don’t ever put the law before God,” Wilson said during the services.
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