Chicago Pastor Courtney Lewis said he was in the middle of delivering a sermon to his congregation Sunday when he heard loud banging on the church doors. It was the police sent by the city's Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot had allegedly dispatched officers in three squad cars along with two unmarked vehicles in order to shut down the service at Cornerstone Baptist Church, Lewis claimed in a letter of grievance to U.S. Attorney John Lausch.
"Like the Soviet-styled KGB they knocked on our locked doors," Lewis said, noting that the church refused to let them in.
"The only thing she hasn't done yet is beat the doors down and arrest our members," he added.
Religious institutions in Illinois are still barred from gathering in groups of over 10 people under the state's strict reopening plan. But churchgoers in the state believe their constitutional right to freely gather and worship is being unfairly burdened. Several churches, including Cornerstone Baptist have begun holding services again in defiance of the state and local orders.
"Mayor Lightfoot is defiant of the [U.S.] Constitution and our freedom to worship," Lewis wrote in the letter.
The pastor told Todd Starnes' radio show that when the officers banged on the door, the men of the church were instructed not to open them per a safety protocol.
"Thankfully our doors were locked as a normal safety precaution we take each service to protect our members from the escalating gun violence in Chicago," he said.
Lewis also told the radio program that an usher who was positioned outside of the church during the service observed the officers approach the building and begin taking pictures. One of the individuals in an unmarked car had reportedly been photographing churchgoers as they arrived at the church.
"The mayor wants to educate everyone into compliance — which means intimidate," Lewis told the radio program.
The pastor added that his small congregation has gone above and beyond to maintain health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, including conducting online services and outdoor services for a time and practicing social distancing requirements. The church is also taking members' temperatures on their way in and not allowing the elderly to attend services.
"We are trying to follow the laws of man as much as reasonably possible but when the laws of man conflict with the laws of God I as a Pastor have a duty to follow the laws of God," Lewis wrote in the letter to Lausch, in which he requested "the assistance of our President and our justice department in correcting the grave miscarriage of the law."
Last week, Mayor Lightfoot requested that churches wait to hold services until she slowly reopens the city in June. Lightfoot said that she's focused on making sure people can celebrate their faith in a safe way.