The closure of churches as part of the novel coronavirus shutdowns remains a bone of contention around the country. Most frequently we’ve heard about pastors and congregants protesting the closures, but that’s not always the case. One church in Chicago has continued to defy Governor Pritzker’s shutdown orders and held two services on Sundays for those desiring to attend who are willing to follow social distancing rules inside the building. Rather than cheering on their neighbors for keeping the faith, some residents are now planning protests outside the church and they’re trying to bring both the Chicago Police and the Mayor into the fray. (CBS Chicago)
Large religious gatherings are not allowed during the statewide stay-at-home order, but that’s not stopping some Chicago churches. In Belmont Cragin, some residents are so fed up with one church holding illegal services, they say they’re planning to protest outside on Sunday.
The church is in a neighborhood with a higher than average positivity rate for COVID-19. And that is why the man behind the plans says if the city won’t do anything to help stop the spread, the neighborhood will.
Born and raised in Belmont Cragin, Alonso Zaragoza says this community is everything to him, and that is why he takes its safety personally…
So he says if the city won’t step in to stop the church from hosting services, drawing more than 100 people, during the stay at home order, the neighborhood will.
The church in question is Metro Praise International, located on West Diversey Street in Chicago. Their pastor isn’t giving interviews to the press at this point, so he’s clearly not in this for attention or to prove a point. But he has a sizable following, drawing as many as 100 congregants to his sermons, even during the pandemic lockdown.
This clearly has Alonso Zaragoza upset, so he’s going to rally people to protest outside of the church while services are taking place.
Not for nothing, but isn’t this sort of a self-defeating proposal? You’re upset that too many people are congregating at the church, so you’re going to try to get a bunch of other people to show up at the same location? And if the pastor is keeping all of the congregants six feet apart during the sermons and they’re sanitizing the whole place and encouraging the use of personal protective equipment, is this really that much of a threat to public safety?
Apparently so, at least in the eyes of the government. Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent a letter to all of the churches last week saying “she hopes the city won’t have to step in and take any enforcement action, but if they have to, they will.” That sounds a bit ominous for a letter being sent to priests, pastors, rabbis and clerics, doesn’t it?
The Chicago PD is following orders on this matter. They also issued a statement saying that people can return to religious services “once the pandemic is over.”
“The Chicago Police Department will continue working this weekend with all residents in the city to ensure full compliance with the mandate. We remain hopeful that we will not have to take any kind of enforcement action this weekend.”
Who is going to determine when the pandemic “is over?” The Mayor? The Governor? This thing may not be “over” until next year, assuming it’s ever really over. How long must Chicago’s churches remain closed?
Meanwhile, you can still see crowds of people in Chicago’s parks and streets, gathering together, many without bothering to wear masks. And as we previously learned, some of the city’s residents have been throwing “pandemic parties.” But the city government is going to invest its time in going after a church? Maybe it’s just me, but this pandemic is causing a form of insanity to spread across the country that has nothing to do with the virus itself.