Michael Pfleger wants houses of worship to provide youth programs or lose tax exemption

SNEED EXCLUSIVE: St. Sabina pastor seeks methods of curbing the surge in gun violence that usually accompanies summer weather.

SHARE Michael Pfleger wants houses of worship to provide youth programs or lose tax exemption

Father Michael Pfleger wants a policy in which houses of worship provide summer programs for young people or lose their tax exemptions.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Hot town. Summer in the city.

Chicago, in the rearview mirror of a COVID nightmare, is now preparing for the resumption of violence and gun smoke with summer heat approaching. 

Father Michael Pfleger, now a member of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s public safety transition team, has a plan.

It includes a tax ax.

Pastor of St. Sabina’s Church, the South Side’s largest Black Roman Catholic congregation, has led an anti-gun crusade for decades.

He preaches. The city’s mayors listen.

He marches. The press follows.

He wears black, but he is not Black.

And he is weary.

“The city is now in a life-or-death situation; violence seems to be everywhere in the nation,” said Pfleger, highlighting the city’s fright and flight.

“It’s eating us up,” added Pfleger.

In an interview Thursday, Pfleger told Sneed he plans to propose a solution to help erase the major uptick of violence via a major influx of South Side youth in downtown Chicago at night.

“Although Mayor [Brandon] Johnson’s public safety team is still in the discussion phase, I plan to propose the removal of  the tax exemption status given to thousands of churches, synagogues and mosques citywide if they don’t provide a full load of activities for young people, especially on weekends,” he said … noting some blocks on the south and west sides have many churches.

“I know it sounds radical, but a lot of young people come downtown because they feel it is safer than their own neighborhoods,” he said. 

“Or there is nothing for them to do in their neighborhoods, or they don’t know about what is going on in their community other than trouble,” he added. 

“I’ve been pushing for a website sharing all such programs for young people citywide,” he added. “Young people can be our peacemakers, a learned activity added to having fun,” he added.

“Children are our best investment; they could be our peacemakers; and they are getting killed, burying our future,” he said. 

“Now everybody has to step up because we no longer have a choice.”

Pfleger also aligns with Johnson’s push to hire more youth year around and not just this summer, adding his own pitch of an inclusion of youth who have had “run-ins with the police.” 

Pfleger also tells Sneed he will pitch for “more publicized” help for parents who have challenges with children who are struggling. 

“You can’t deny poor people mental health access just because they can’t pay for it,” he said. “Everybody wins if everybody helps.”

The activist priest is also celebrating his birthday at noon Monday by stepping off another “Gun Is Not An Answer” crusade at 79th street and Racine Avenue, prefaced by a 9 a.m. gun turn-in at his church.

“A working handgun will fetch $100 cash. A working assault weapon will fetch $200,” he said.

“The violence escalating in the city cannot be addressed like an annual checkup ... but rather as someone entering an emergency room in need of immediate attention.”

Royal cash …

Gosh! It was a happy ending, after all … at least for the taxi driver on the brief last leg of a nightmare paparazzi hunt in pursuit of England’s Prince Harry and his American wife, Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, following a charity event in New York last Wednesday night.

The driver, Sonny Singh, was given a $50 bill for a much lesser fare.

There ya go. 

Gavel gab …

Watch for legal eagles Dan K. Webb and Robert Clifford to retry the case of the legendary Greek philosopher Socrates, who — in case you forgot — was put to death by drinking the poisonous hemlock in 399 B.C. for corrupting young Greeks with bad ideas.

Yikes! Sponsored by the National Hellenic Museum, Sneed hears her pal WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos, a big-time investigative reporter, will be in the jury pool! 

Double Yikes! 

The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. May 22 at Chicago’s Harris Theater. Oopah!

Sneedlings …

Saturday birthdays: rapper Busta Rhymes, 51; actor Timothy Olyphant, 55, and singer Cher, 77. Sunday birthdays: quarterback Josh Allen, 27; singer Cody Johnson, 36, and actor Mr. T., 71.

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