Rev. Jesse Jackson's PUSH Coalition Warns Against In-Person Worships, Calls For More Resources, Support For Faith Groups From Federal Government

WBBM Newsradio Staff
May 23, 2020 - 3:34 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Local church leaders are pushing against President Trump's Friday announcement that places of worship should be deemed essential. 

The Chicago-based social justice RainbowPUSH Coalition, founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., is calling for more tests, resources and support for faith communities from the federal government, instead of "hypocritical" assertions that congregations should worship together, said RainbowPUSH Coalition Vice President Todd Yeary on a Zoom press conference Saturday afternoon.

"Rather than push folks to gather against what my mama would call common sense — rather than have us to worship, let's push for more resources to support and sustain the churches in this difficult time," Yeary said. "Let's ensure that the worshippers have the support that they need to be able to take care of their families and educate their children rather than put forth some hypocritical, symbolic assertion that we all gather together." 

Jackson, who has been outspoken about the issue, is heeding to worshippers not to gather in public this holiday weekend, encouraging people to pray at home instead and not put neighbors at risk. 

“It’s a mistake to physically go to church this Sunday without medical preparation,” said Jackson. “To do so is an act of defiance not worship. “Do justice and walk humbly with God. Beware of those who pray loud on corners to be seen. Pray in your private closet and don’t jeopardize your neighbor."

Jackson is trying to reach his followers, who are mostly Black and are one of the groups most affected by coronavirus, to worship in place and not risk being in large crowds. 

Gov. Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot also shot down Trump's claim that all places of worshippers should open. Pritzker said he is acting based on science and data and doesn't think it is safe to have large numbers of people gather. He said Friday he is having discussions with religious leaders in Illinois about ways to minister to more people when the state moves into Phase 3 of reopening next week. Strategies could include outdoor offerings, such as drive-in services, he said.

Currently, under the stay-at-home order, church services cannot have more than 10 people present in a sanctuary. Pritzker said his restrictions are based on science and recommendations from health experts, though a handful of churches have defied these rules and are being fined $500 by the city.

Pastor Joe Wyrostek of the Metro Praise International in Belmont Cragin told CBS 2 Chicago he plans to hold gatherings this weekend and has been since May 12.

"We should be able to have as many people as can safely social distance," Wyrostek said. 

Even though he was fined, he plans to keep defying the rule over the basis that the church-gathering risk isn't any greater than visiting other essential businesses. 

Public officials said most religious leaders have listened to the rules and they hope that this continues.

“We do not want parishioners to get ill because their faith leaders bring them together,” the governor said. 

Pritzker said the state is slowly seeing a decline, but the numbers say that the virus is still hitting Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,352 new coronavirus cases and 75 new deaths, for a statewide total of 107,796 confirmed cases and 4,790 deaths Saturday.