Chicago Fines Three Churches for Holding Services Despite Social Distancing Rules

Willie Wilson (second from left) attended Philadelphia Romanian Church of God’s services last Sunday, and now will pay their $500 fine for hosting such services. Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times

Following through with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s promise to take action against churches that violate social distancing rules, the Chicago Police Department issued $500 fines to three separate houses of worship that held services over the weekend, city officials said.

Police cited Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, Philadelphia Romanian Church of God and Metro Praise International for their services.

Police also acknowledged temporarily banning parking near churches “as a precaution to prevent planned large gatherings from taking place.”

“The Chicago Police Department has been working to ensure full compliance with the (stay-at-home) order,” the department said. “As part of this effort, we continue to ask everyone to help slow the spread of the virus by staying home and practicing social distancing so that once we have begun to recover and reopen, residents can return to their religious services in a safe manner.”

Gospel singer and businessman Willie Wilson, meanwhile, released a statement saying he would pay the fines. Wilson ran for mayor in 2019 and won several African American wards in the election’s first round, then endorsed Lightfoot against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Their relationship frayed last year, however, and he’s been an outspoken critic of Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s handling of the stay-at-home order for churches.

“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,” he said in a statement.

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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, Gregory Pratt