Willie Wilson’s support for Illinois churches holding services in violation of the stay-at-home order took another step Wednesday.
The former mayoral candidate and influential businessman announced he will pay the $500 fines given to three Chicago churches that held services Sunday.
Philadelphia Romanian Church of God in Uptown, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Albany Park and Metro Praise International Church in Belmont Cragin were criticized and fined by authorities for allowing more than 10 people — the current limit set by Gov. J.B. Pritzker — to attend services.
Wilson, in a statement Wednesday, said that limit infringes on the churches’ free exercise of religion.
“The Governor and Mayor continue to trample on our constitutional rights while hiding behind a Stay at Home Order that treats the church as non-essential,” the statement said. “It is shameful that the church is discriminated against, while liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and Home Depot [are] treated as essential businesses.”
Wilson has been involved in Illinois’ coronavirus pandemic response from the start.
Since March, he’s held numerous events to distribute masks to Chicago aldermen and residents, including a recent initiative to give away 5 million masks that became controversial when Mayor Lori Lightfoot questioned its logistical feasibility.
Wilson has also been critical of the stay-at-home order’s relationship with churches. He held a news conference last week alongside dozens of pastors and other religious leaders to call for looser restrictions, and will hold another press conference Thursday to discuss his fine-paying.
Last Sunday, Wilson attended the services at Philadelphia Romanian Church — whose pastor, Florin Cimpean, compared the stay-at-home order to communism in Wilson’s news conference last week. That church was one of the three fined by government officials.