Chicago officials are threatening to close or demolish Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church for continuing to meet in defiance of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's executive order banning in-person services larger than 10 people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady delivered a letter to the Pentecostal church, saying she has the power to stop members from worshiping by "whatever means are necessary."
"...As the Health Commissioner, I have the power and duty 'to cause all nuisances affecting the health of the public to be abated with all reasonable promptness,' and general police powers 'to correct, by whatever means are necessary, any health hazard that presents an immediate risk to the life or health of one or more citizens of the City of Chicago,'" she wrote.
If you continue to operate in defiance of the Executive Order, the City will pursue all available legal remedies... Any future gatherings conducted contrary to the Order will be considered a failure to abate and the City will take steps necessary to abate, including Summary Abatement."
According to the Illinois Supreme Court, "Summary Abatement" means "to put down or destroy without process."
Pastor Cristian Ionescu said the church's guidelines are "stricter than the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention]'s." All attendees are required to sit six feet apart and have their temperatures checked at the front door.
Despite the city's threat, Ionescu said the church will continue congregating for worship.
"Per the words they used in that letter, the maximum that they can escalate to is demolishing the church – without court order, without due process," Ionescu said. "...So, I consider that an extreme threat. I'm not afraid of it. We're gonna be peaceful. But we won't stand down one bit."