Several churches in the Chicago, Illinois, area held in-person worship services on Sunday, defying a statewide stay-at-home order prohibiting religious gatherings of more than 10 people.
As many as 100 churches held in-person services on Sunday, according to ABC Chicago, including Philadelphia Romanian Church of God in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
“A church is a spiritual hospital,” said Pastor Florin Cimpean Cimpean to ABC. "We have people who have spiritual needs. Emotional needs. And this church is much safer than any other open space, like Home Depot or any other store."
Metro Praise International Church, located in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood, held three 45-minute worship services, according to CBS Chicago.
Although the congregation said that they were practicing social distancing with their services, the church nevertheless garnered local protests for their decision to have in-person worship.
“Nobody’s denying them the right to meet. We’re just wanting them to meet safely,” said one protester, named Alonzo Zaragoza, in comments to CBS.
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Albany Park reported more than 100 attendees for their morning service on Sunday, with Lead Pastor Cristian Ionescu telling the Chicago Tribune that he received no complaints from neighbors.
In addition to holding services despite the order, Elim Romanian has also taken legal action, having filed a lawsuit against Governor J.B. Pritzker earlier this month over the order.
Joined by Logos Baptist Ministries of Niles, Elim Romanian requested a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of the mass gathering restriction.
However, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman issued an opinion last week rejecting their request, arguing that the churches’ “request for an injunction” and “blatant refusal to follow the mandates of the Order are both ill-founded and selfish.”
“An injunction would risk the lives of plaintiffs’ congregants, as well as the lives of their family members, friends, co-workers and other members of their communities with whom they come in contact,” wrote Gettleman.
Gettleman also rejected the argument that in-person worship services pose no greater risk when it comes to spreading the coronavirus than secular venues such as grocery stores.
“Gatherings at places of worship pose higher risks of infection than gatherings at businesses,” he asserted. “The congregants do not just stop by Elim Church. They congregate to sing, pray, and worship together. That takes more time than shopping for liquor or groceries.”