Several Chicago area churches held in-person Sunday services in defiance of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) stay-at-home orders.
Pastor Florin Cimpean of the Philadelphia Romanian Church of God in Ravenswood said he expected around 50 to 60 people to attend services, which was about 10 percent of the congregation on a regular Sunday, according to ABC 7.
“The church is a spiritual hospital, okay. We help people with their spiritual needs, emotional needs. And this church is much safer than any other open space like Home Depot, Costco, any type of store,” he commented.
Cimpean, who grew up in Soviet-controlled Romania, added that the church served an immigrant community that survived communism in the past and felt it was threatening their freedoms once again.
“All of these restrictions, they sound more like communism,” he said at an event outside the Thompson Center on Thursday.
Former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson organized the gathering to give pastors a platform to voice their disagreement with Pritzker’s order, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Not even communists were able to completely shut down churches,” Cimpean stated. “We are essential. The spiritual, emotional and mental impact of this [coronavirus] will probably be greater long-term than the medical one.”
However, after Wilson and others urged churches to reopen and called them “essential businesses,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she found the effort dangerous.
“This is not playing Russian roulette. This is playing with a gun that’s fully loaded and cocked,” she claimed.
Wednesday on Twitter, Pritzker said there were no easy decisions during a pandemic and added that he had “sympathy for leaders struggling with those choices — but not for those so intent on disregarding science & logic that they put people’s lives at risk.”
“You weren’t elected to do what’s easy. You were elected to do what’s right,” he continued.
Despite their warnings, Cimpean said Thursday that if violating the stay-at-home order meant being arrested, he was willing to face the consequences.
“I don’t think the mayor will do that. But if they want to do that, let them come. It is what it is,” he concluded.