A church in unincorporated Elgin plans to reopen its doors to parishioners next Sunday despite Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order including restrictions on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week, leaders of the Northwest Bible Baptist Church and their attorneys sent a letter to Pritzker notifying him that the church intends to resume in-person services on May 17.
“We are grateful for the guidance our government has provided through this pandemic and have respectfully refrained from gathering for weeks,” the church’s pastor, Dr. Keith Gomez, said in the letter. “However, we are persuaded that now is the time to safely resume meeting together in-person.”
Leaders add they intend to follow guidelines including administering temperature checks, asking parishioners to wear masks, adhering to social distancing guidelines and have asked those over the age of 65 and individuals with pre-existing conditions to stay at home and participate virtually among other measures.
During his coronavirus press briefing on Thursday, Pritzker acknowledged the church's intent and said he hopes leaders reconsider their decision for the safety of those who would attend.
“I would think that a house of worship and a pastor would know better and not encourage their parishioners to put themselves and their families in danger,” Pritzker said.
“Houses of worship, have an opportunity to have their parishioners worship,” he added. “They just shouldn't do it in a way that is going to, you know, cause the spread of the virus.”
Should the church host in-person services on Sunday, it will not be the first time leaders have defied Pritzker’s executive order.
In March, the church’s school, Northwest Baptist Academy, held classes for students from kindergarten through 12th grade for several days after the governor directed all public and private schools to shutdown in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Illinois officials reported 1,656 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, along with 57 additional deaths as a result of the virus.
In all, Illinois has now reported 77,741 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, according to figures available from the state's Department of Public Health.
Sunday's additional deaths bring the state's death toll to 3,406.