CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday she’s working with faith leaders on a plan to safely reopen houses of worship in Chicago, pushing back on President Donald Trump’s pledge to “override” states where stay at home orders prevent religious services from meeting in-person.
Gov. JB Pritzker’s order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, essentially banning in-person religious services. Most Chicago churches have switched to digital services to slow the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing people to worship together.
Last week, Lightfoot announced she was working with faith leaders from places like West Point Baptist Church, 3566 S. Cottage Grove Ave., and the Illinois Muslim Coalition on guidelines for places of worship to safely reconvene. Those faith leaders said they were focused on protecting their communities and didn’t want to rush back to in-person services if it put people at risk.
But Trump threatened Friday to “override the governors” and defended church leaders who have held in-person services.
“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said during a press conference. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I am correcting this injustice.”
The president has very limited power to override state authority. During her own Friday press conference, Lightfoot said Trump has no power to reopen churches in Chicago and described his comments as “pandering” to his fans during an election year.
“The president has said a lot of things over the last eight weeks, many of which he’s had to walk back literally the next day or got undercut by people who were wiser than him on some of these issues,” Lightfoot said. “… He’s said so many dangerous and foolish things. Add this to the list.”
Lightfoot added the city is working with its faith community to “set up very specific guidelines to help them be able to reopen safely.”
“The faith leaders I’ve talked to across the city recognize that they have to be smart about this,” she said.
Some local faith leaders have pushed back on the stay at home order, though.
This week the city cited three Chicago churches — Philadelphia Romanian Church Chicago, 1713 W. Sunnyside Ave.; Elim Romanian Pentecostal, 4850 N. Bernard St.; and Metro Praise International, 5405 W. Diversey Ave. — for hosting in-person services.
Willie Wilson, the businessman and former mayoral candidate who spoke at the Ravenswood church over the weekend, pledged to pay whatever fines come from the city’s citations.
Leaders from these three churches told Block Club earlier this week they plan to keep hosting in-person services.
Following the president’s comments, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president wants churches to reopen under the guidelines laid out by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
The guidelines for faith-based organizations say “the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus” and for faith leaders to “consider replacing in-person meetings with conference calls, video conferencing, or web-based seminars and postponing non-essential meetings and travel” to help limit the spread of the virus.
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