A businessman and former mayoral candidate said he will pay the fines three churches in Illinois will face for holding in-person worship service during the ongoing lockdown in the city.
The Philadelphia Romanian Church of God, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, and Metro Praise International Church have been holding in-person services with more than 10 people, in violation of state orders.
Willie Wilson, an influential local businessman, released a statement Wednesday saying that he will pay the fines the three churches received for disobeying the state order.
“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,” said Wilson, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
“It is shameful that the church is discriminated against, while liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and Home Depot [are] treated as essential businesses.”
Wilson himself attended worship at Philadelphia Romanian Church of God on Sunday and has been active in distributing masks to Chicago aldermen and residents, the Sun-Times added.
While churches are being penalized for holding worship services during the state's stay-at-home order, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended her decision not to abide by lockdown orders after it was revealed that she went to a hair salon for a haircut while other salons and barbershops were forced to remain closed. Lightfoot suggested last month that the lockdown orders did not apply to her because she's "the public face of this city" and is giving interviews on national TV.
This Sunday, during Memorial Day weekend, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church will host Brian Gibson, pastor of the multi-site megachurch His Church, for a worship service.
Gibson, who has actively campaigned for churches to remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic, told Fox News that he was going to Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church to “stand against injustice.”
“This is a refugee population that came here from a totalitarian government, had no religious liberties ... and what do they find when they get in Chicago?” Gibson asked.
“They find thuggery, they shut down the streets around their church. These people are harassed ... It's un-American. It's unacceptable. This is not Romania. This is not China ... This is America.”
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries sued Illinois over the order, however U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman recently ruled against their request for relief.
“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,” Gettleman wrote. “Their interest in communal services cannot and does not outweigh the health and safety of the public.”
Gettleman went on to argue that in-person church services “pose higher risks of infection than gatherings at businesses.”
“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,” he added.