Churches in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood and in suburban Niles held services this past Sunday in defiance of Illinois Gov. Pritzker's stay-at-home order, according to Liberty Counsel, a non-profit focused on advancing religious freedom.
Any religious gathering must be limited to a maximum of 10 people in compliance with social distancing guidelines, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and a revised stay-at-home order that went into effect May 1.
Services took place on Sunday at both Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Albany Park and Logos Baptist Ministries in Niles, according to Liberty Counsel. Many safety precautions were put in place at Elim Church including the use of masks, gloves, disinfectant dispensers and seating rearranged to accommodate social distancing, the organization said.
Pastor Cristian Ionescu, pastor at Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, said approximately 110 parishioners — about 15% of the total membership —participated in Sunday's services.
“We are more than a gathering and can’t be placed in category with stadiums and bars because we are not providing entertainment,” Ionescu said. “We are providing vital spiritual services for the people. As they open Walmart, supermarkets to feed people with physical food. How about us who offer spiritual food?”
Elim Church has filed a lawsuit against Pritzker regarding the extended stay-at-home order and the classification of churches as non-essential.
The alderman representing Albany Park, 33rd Ward Ald. Rosanna Rodriguez is vehemently against services in the highly immigrant and vulnerable community.
"We don’t want this to go on," Rodriguez said. "It’s definitely a threat to public health."
According to Liberty Counsel, the churches and many others like them, "could easily accommodate" many more than 10 people, while still observing social distancing and safety precautions.
Pastor Ionescu added that temperatures were taken as everyone entered the church's sanctuary on Sunday, and he plans to do the same next week.
"Tattoo parlors, they talk about liquor stores, barber shops," he added. "Anything else, we are just social gathering. I think they should respect us a little bit more."