Chicago blocks church parking lots to enforce stay-at-home order

Chicago blocks church parking lots to enforce stay-at-home order
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The city of Chicago blocked parking at some churches’ lots Sunday in order to enforce Illinois’s stay-at-home order. 

The Chicago Police Department said in a statement that the city was banning parking by certain buildings to stop large numbers of people from congregating for planned gatherings.

City police prevented cars from parking at Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church as people gathered for its Sunday evening service, NBC Chicago reported, prompting pastor Cristian Ionescu to call the city’s efforts “vindictive.” 

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that the city will fine churches that go against the state’s stay-at-home order by gathering more than 10 people to worship in person. Police also reportedly gave out citations for other churches in the city that held services Sunday, according to NBC Chicago.

Police said in a statement obtained by The Hill that the department is requesting people stay at home and continue practicing social distancing, so when the city can reopen, people can return to in-person worship services.

"Officers will continue to monitor any possible large gatherings in their districts and issue any citations where necessary," the department said.

Lightfoot asked churches on Monday to hold off on in-person gatherings until the city begins to reopen in June.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, a Clinton appointee, ruled against two churches, including Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, who wanted to run adjusted in-person services during the stay-at-home order. Elim Romanian still held services on the Sunday following the ruling. 

Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) updated his stay-at-home order to allow for the “free exercise of religion” but mandated that gatherings remain under 10 people. 

States and churches across the country have fought against stay-at-home orders, claiming that they can meet in-person during the coronavirus pandemic. The tension between state government and religious institutions during the pandemic has sparked several legal battles. 

Chicago has confirmed 37,381 cases of coronavirus, according to city data