Rev. Jesse Jackson Urges Church Leaders Not To Congregate

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Prominent church leader and civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson has a message for churches and those who want to worship with their congregation.

Don't do it, he said.

The reverend took to Twitter to post a message to churches across the city that have ignored Pritzker's stay-at-home order. Under the amended order, freedom of religion is deemed essential but it still must be practiced safely. Churches and its members can congregate with up to 10 people but only if they follow the physical distancing guidelines. However, some churches have sued the governor and held large gatherings of more than 10 people in the past week. 

"Whether playing or praying, working or worshipping, inmates or prison guards; COVID-19, the killer dwells in congestion. It loves crowds," Rev. Jackson wrote. "Let’s honor physical distancing. Choose life over death. Shelter & pray at home."

On Friday, Mayor Lightfoot warned that rogue churches who do not follow the state's guidelines will be subject to enforcement action if necessary. 

She sent letters to houses of worship that have planned services in violation of the rules on social distancing and crowd size and also asked other religious leaders to contact the rogue churches.

"We are hopeful that we will not need to take any enforcement action, but if we have to, we will," Lightfoot said. 

She said she hopes the conversation and education will keep churches from breaking rules. 

Pastor Bernard Jakes of the West Point Baptist Church, who joined Lightfoot on a conference call, said there are other ways to worship. He said his Sunday services are not only live-streamed online, but also available on a dial-up telephone line for those who don't have Internet service or prefer not to use it.

Dr. Dilara Sayeed, co-founder of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, said finding these new ways to connect people has been "a blessing in disguise." 

The Archdiocese of Chicago also launched a prayer hotline May 8 for anyone of any faith who would like to pray virtually or seek spiritual advice.

Other religious communities around the country have also gone against the stay-at-home orders imposed by governors to keep coronavirus from spreading, saying the order is a breach of the First Amendment. It remains to be seen what government action will be imposed on the churches violating these orders.