Illinois isn't communist Romania -- but according to one pastor, it's getting harder to tell the difference. Chicago's Cristian Ionescu grew up watching dictators close churches, jail pastors, and marginalize men and women of faith. He just never dreamed that decades later in America, he'd be close to the same kind of oppression.
Like a lot of congregations, his Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in Illinois has been stunned by Gov. J.B. Pritzker's reluctance to even consider reopening houses of worship. Staring down a church lockdown that could extend well into the summer, he decided he'd had enough.
Along with Logos Baptist Ministries, the church is suing the governor to stop his stifling executive order from taking effect. As far as they're concerned, if businesses can open following CDC guidelines, so can churches. In an interview with World magazine, Ionescu insisted they'll do temperature checks at the door, provide masks and hand sanitizer, adhere to social distancing guidelines, and cut their attendance to 15 percent capacity. But the state hasn't budged.
It all reminds him of a tortured childhood in central Europe where persecution was the norm. "When I hear about shutting churches down without consent, without communication, without dialogue ... it sounds like the same playbook the Communists used," he said.
At least now, Steve West writes, he has one remedy the young Cristian didn't: the courts. Let's hope they, along with the Trump Justice Department, finally give his church the constitutional relief he deserves.
For more on the measures your congregation can take, check out FRC's special publication, "Guidelines for Re-opening Your Church."