Gov Pritzker gives seemingly never-ending five-phase plan to reopen Illinois, churches among hardest hit

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To some Illinois residents, particularly those who practice religion, it may feel as if their state will remain under some state of lockdown until the end of time,  in part because Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan does indeed seem like it extends until infinity and beyond.

Unveiled by the governor on Tuesday, the plan contains no definitive reopening dates but does offer to keep the religiously minded waiting an exceptionally long time.

The plan specifically calls for not allowing churches to reopen until phase three, which won’t begin until May 29th at the earliest. And even then, churches will be restricted to a maximum of 10 parishioners, which is practically nothing.

Only at phase four will churches be permitted to host up to 50 parishioners. And at phase five, which is expected to start sometime between now and infinity, will in-person services of more than 50 people be allowed.

View the full plan below:

The problem is that phase five won’t begin until a vaccine is available …

With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing,” the five-phase plan released by Pritzker reads.

Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This means full church services may not return for up to 18 months and beyond.

During a presser Tuesday, Pritzker further said that the very sense of “normalcy” sought by so many right now also cannot be achieved until a vaccine is developed.

“I know that we all have a passionate desire to return to the sense of normalcy that we felt before the world knew of COVID-19,” he reportedly said. “Here’s the truth. And I don’t like it any more than you do.”

“Until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment, or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist.”

Naturally, this desire to maintain the current economically (and religiously) devastating status quo hasn’t sat well with locals.

See some of the reaction below:

Even the Chicago Tribune has lashed out at Pritzker.

“Pritzker’s plan to open businesses slowly … is cautious to the extreme. Actually, he’s being more than just cautious. He has moved the goal posts,” the paper’s editorial board wrote in a critical op-ed Wednesday. “Pritzker’s latest plan extends the benchmarks for victory from bending the infection curve to defeating the virus altogether.”

Because of his moving goalposts, some have chosen to fight back, including a group of Romanian pastors who issued a declaration this week that they’ll be reopening their churches for in-person services on May 10, well ahead of the start of phase three.

“The Romanian-Americans in our congregations have chosen Chicago as their homeland, many of them after fleeing communist oppression that targeted religious gatherings, houses of worship and communal exercise of their religion and faith,” they wrote.

“We found a home in Illinois, where the promise of freedom has been consistently and faithfully achieved, until your Executive Order 2020-10 unlawfully required that our churches shut their doors to our congregants, irrespective of any social distancing and health precautions that we are willing and able to implement, while allowing many other non-religious businesses and organization to remain open.”

The pastors further accused the governor of being “in clear violation of” of their First Amendment rights and announced that they’ve hired a legal firm to “challenge your unconstitutional orders in federal court.”

Read the letter below:

It was signed by six pastors and Horatio Mihet, the chief litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel.

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Vivek Saxena

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