Illinois | Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded negatively to President Donald Trump’s call for state governors to reopen houses of worship this Memorial Day weekend, May 23-24.
President Trump identified houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential at an early afternoon White House press conference Friday, May 22. He then called on state governors to reopen all houses of worship for in-person worship, threatening to “override” them if they refused to do so. It is not known how the president could override state governors.
Governor Pritzker was asked about the president’s announcement at his daily press conference held later that afternoon in Springfield. Near the beginning of the press conference the governor had already stated, “I know worship is as essential as food and water to most of us.” To the question he responded, “We hope that faith leaders will continue to do as the vast majority of them have done which is to worship sometimes online, sometimes in other capacities we’ve talked about outdoor and drive-in.”
He stressed, “We’re going to continue to operate on the basis of science and data.” The governor also noted “we did not want parishioners to get ill because their faith leaders bring them together.” Beyond that, the governor gave no indication of making adjustments to his ReStore Illinois Plan by reopening churches.
Mayor Lightfoot commented on the president’s statements during her daily afternoon press conference in Chicago. She described the president’s remarks as pandering to his base in a bid to get re-elected and questioned the safety of such actions.
“By no means can the president order any locality, any state to do something that he doesn’t have the power to do,” Lightfoot responded. “And he can’t do that here, so, to me it’s just another thing that he said. The media pays attention to it. But we’re going to be guided by the science and the data. We are not going to rush to do something so he can fulfill a campaign promise that sets people’s lives at risk.”
Trump said, “Some governors have identified abortion clinics and liquor stores as essentials but have left out churches and other houses of worship – that’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential places.”
Trump addressed the risks involved with the Coronavirus when he spoke, but said that pastors, rabbis, and imams “love their people” and should be trusted to enforce proper social distancing protocols.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website has issued guidelines for churches on reopening. Dr. Deborah Birx, in a follow-up press conference to the president’s, also suggested faith leaders contact and work with their local health departments before reopening. Birx recommended people at high risk or those not feeling well should stay home and not attend services.
Following the ReStore Illinois Plan, the four regions of the state are expected to move into Phase Three by May 29. Public gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer people until the state reaches Phase Four of the plan. In Phase Four, groups of 50 or less can meet. It is not until Phase Five that larger groups are allowed.