A Chicago church plans to hold a Memorial Day-themed service this Sunday in defiance of the state's lockdown orders.
Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, which held services last Sunday despite Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order, will host a service again this Sunday in support of religious freedom.
Pritzker recently announced a plan to reopen the state, but the plan banned churches with over 50 people from gathering until there is a vaccine, highly effective treatment, or elimination of any new cases — criteria that could take more than a year.
Preaching during the service will be HIS Church Pastor Brian Gibson, who last week launched "Peaceably Gather," an initiative that calls on religious institutions nationwide to safely reopen for worship gatherings. Also joining the service will be local pastor Joseph Wyrostek, who leads Metro Praise International Chicago's Belmont Cragin neighborhood.
In a video announcing his attendance at the service, Gibson said, "We picked this church because this is a church of immigrants ... an immigrant community that came to America looking to escape a totalitarian government.
"They come to America, [and] what do they find?" asked Gibson rhetorically. "They found more restriction, they find religious targeting. They find that the Walmart, the Lowe's, and the liquor stores can all be open, but the church can't.
"The one thing that separates us from nations without freedom is our Constitution," Gibson said at the video's opening.
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Since the start of the outbreak, churches and other religious institutions across the country have been in conflict with state and local leaders who have ordered worship gatherings to cease in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Last month, Attorney General William Barr warned state and local leaders in a statement to be careful not to violate the constitutional rights of Americans to assemble and worship while enforcing social distancing measures.
Later in April, Barr instructed federal prosecutors to specifically "be on the lookout" for such constitutional violations, adding that "the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis."
In a news release, Peaceably Gather said that thousand of churches around the country have joined the movement to safely reopen since the launch of the effort.
Peaceably Gather is legally represented by First Liberty Institute, the nation's largest legal organization dedicated exclusively to defending the religious liberty of Americans.