The pastor of Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Chicago told “The Todd Starnes Show” on Monday that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot “militarized” the city police department to prevent worship at his church amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Cristian Ionescu, the pastor, laid out the ways he said the city tried to intimidate his congregation prior to last Sunday’s service. He said about three days before the Sunday, city police put up fliers on the blocks around his the church to inform churchgoers and nearby residents that they would not be able to park there on Sunday.
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The ploy didn’t stop the congregation– in part because they use a nearby bank’s parking lot– but when police noticed cars were pulling in there, they blocked them in, he said.
“Our members are very resourceful, so they found ways around it,” he said. “So they still came to church.”
Todd Starnes, the host of the show, pointed out that the federal judge who denied the church’s injunction on Saturday night was appointed by President Clinton and called the church “selfish” for putting its congregants in harm’s way.
Harry Mihet, an attorney from Liberty Counsel, said Lightfoot’s tactics in preventing the service was mob-like because, in addition to blocking the street parking outside the church, the city told residents who lived on the street that the reason they were inconvenienced was because of the church.
“What the mayor was doing here, was that she manufactured a crisis and scapegoated the churches with the intent—we believe—of inciting hatred and violence against these families that just want to worship their God.”
Liberty Counsel said in a press release that it is representing Ionescu’s church and Logos Baptist Ministries in a federal lawsuit against the state’s Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, over his “unconstitutional executive orders discriminating against churches by restricting in-person worship.” The statement pointed out how some commercial venues are allowed to accommodate large crowds.
Last week, Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times that she had a “very pleasant” conversation with Ionescu. NBC Chicago reported that the city police said in a statement that “they are asking residents to stay home and practice social distancing so that once the city begins to recover and reopen, residents can return to their religious services in a safe manner.
“Officers will continue to monitor any possible large gatherings in their districts and issue any citations where necessary,” CPD said.
Mehit said many of the churchgoers fled communism in Romania and “just want to be able to worship according to their conscience.”