A day after a group of pastors put Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzke on notice with a fiery declaration that they were opening May 10, consequences be damned, the governor unveiled Wednesday a plan to reopen Illinois, and it could be more than a year before churches are “allowed” to resume their normal in-person gatherings.
The five-phase plan gives guidance and instructions to schools, businesses, and churches on when and how they’re allowed to reopen, and what sort of restrictions will be on them once they do. Phase 3 allows church services of up to 10 people, phase 4 up to 50, and church services of more than 50 people will not be allowed until phase 5, with threats of fines, arrests and jail time for anyone breaking his decree.
When asked about the different standards for churches and businesses during a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday, Pritzker confirmed that churches will be viewed similarly as businesses and won’t be allowed to hold in-person services of more than 50 people until the final phase, even if that’s 12-18 months away.
Pritzker made the comments during a press conference: “The only way that we can cross into phase five ‘Illinois Restored’ with all the sectors of the economy running with completely normal operations is with a vaccine, or a widely available and highly effective treatment or with the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period of time.”
“Until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist…that means we have to learn how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished.”
He later said “You know, that in phase three, there can be gatherings, church gatherings, of 10 or fewer. In phase four, 50 or fewer. So that’s the guidance that’s been given to me…I’m not the one providing that guidance. It really is what the scientists and epidemiologists are recommending.”
So far, of the whole state, one small church, The Beloved Church in Lena, IL filed a federal lawsuit on April 30th protesting what they viewed as their state’s severe and oppressive COVID-19 containment policies. Unfortunately, a federal judge in Illinois ruled on May 3rd that the governor’s stay-at-home order is constitutional, even though it interferes with the right of the people’s gather in large numbers for worship services.
We don’t see this iniquitous decree as being sustainable, especially with the group of Romanian churches promising to defy the governor and have services anyway. The only churches unaffected by these orders are affirming progressive ones, as they couldn’t muster up 50 people to attend their sanctuary of misery even if they paid them all the tithing money.
Though many orthodox churches have remained quieted and cowed up to this point, even the most cowardly of congregants won’t sleep that long. We pray more rise up.