Chicago Churches That Violate Stay-At-Home Order Could Face Up To $2,500 In Fines

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As churches began to reopen in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that churches who hold services will be fined. 

Churches who violate the order are threatened with a misdemeanor charge and could be fined up to $2,500, NBC Chicago reported

“Coming together in these times poses risks, risks that we shouldn’t be taking,” Lightfoot said during a press conference. “We want to do it in partnership with members of the faith community,” she said of reopening, “and come up with guidance that others can follow.” 

“As a person of faith, I understand the wish for communal prayer,” the mayor said in a tweet. “What I don’t understand are the reckless calls to break @GovPritzker’s Stay at Home Order.”  

Several churches held religious services despite the stay-at-home order and have been cited by police. (RELATED: Churches Suspend Worship Services In DC, Maryland And Virginia Over Coronavirus)

Cristian Ionescu, the pastor of one of the churches that held services, said that even if he’s threatened with jail time, he will keep Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church open. “Incarceration, I truly believe, the mayor and the governor would not want to go there,” he told NBC. “For them, it is going to be a PR disaster.”

 “This is illegal and it will go in the court of law,” he said after police blocked the parking lot of his church Sunday night. “I think this is vindictive.” 

The Chicago Police Department said in a statement that churches can begin to reopen safely once coronavirus restrictions are lifted. “Officers will continue to monitor any possible large gatherings in their districts and issue any citations where necessary,” they added. 

“We don’t want to have to shut a business down,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said.  “What we really want is for people to comply, and we want to give them this type of citation as an alternative.” 

Earlier this month, two churches, including Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church filed for a temporary restraining order against Gov. Pritzker, saying that they should be allowed to hold services if social distancing guidelines were followed, according to an NBC report.

The request was dismissed by United States District Judge Robert Gettleman, who ruled that the order is permissible due to the pandemic. The church’s interests “cannot outweigh the health and safety of the public,” he said. 

The churches argued that their operations were similar to that of grocery stores, who are allowed to remain open, but Gettleman said they were more comparable to movie theaters or schools.