CHICAGO — Businessman and ex-mayoral candidate Willie Wilson says he supports a group of church leaders that supposedly want to hold services — but Gov. JB Pritzker slammed the millionaire’s move as “ridiculous.”
Wilson released a statement Tuesday night saying he’d support 100 churches that, he claims, wants to hold services Sunday. Wilson did not name the churches or say where they were, though various church leaders from around the state have pushed for services to resume.
But Pritzker, speaking during a Wednesday press conference, said Wilson would put people’s lives at risk by calling for services to continue.
“It’s a ridiculous call on the part of Willie Wilson. The idea of encouraging pastors to bring what amounts to a large population of elderly African Americans to church to get together, not only in defiance of the executive order but also putting them at significant risk,” Pritzker said. “Think about it — we’re talking about senior citizens who, as we know, are a vulnerable population. And add on top of that African American senior citizens … and they are especially vulnerable, as well.
“Those double sets of co-morbidities, putting those groups of people together in large groups, is an enormous mistake and I would suggest that Willie Wilson do his homework, that he look at what the science and data says that will do to people obviously I care deeply about and I assume he does, too.”
Wilson, who has donated millions of masks to the city during the pandemic, said people are looking “to the church for hope,” according to his statement.
“The church is the foundation of our soul,” Wilson said in the statement. “People need hope in these challenging times and the church offers that hope. If big box stores and grocery stores have the right to welcome more than 10 customers, so do churches as they are ‘essential’ our spiritual wellbeing.”
But officials have said people going to church increases their risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and transmitting the virus to people outside the church.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot criticized church leaders who are holding services after a service was held in Albany Park this weekend.
Again, we hope that leaders of the faith community are going to be smart and sensible and recognize obviously people are following them and they hope that they lead their congregations, their flocks, in a way that is consistent with the public health guidelines,” Lightfoot said Tuesday. “We’re gonna be communicating over and over again over the course of this week. I understand people are getting anxious, but defying common sense and public health guidance only puts their congregations at risk.”
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