CHICAGO (CBS) — Some Kane County church leaders said they they are exempt when it comes to holding school during the coronavirus outbreak.
That goes against Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s mandate to close all private and public schools for two weeks.
CBS 2’s Steven Graves reports how they might be forced to close.
Law enforcement on religious grounds. On Thursday afternoon Kane County Sheriff’s deputies staked out the Northwest Bible Baptist Church in Elgin.
It’s connected to an investigation around the church’s school, Northwest Baptist Academy, that should be closed.
The 60 students and 20 staff inside, going against Governor JB Pritzker’s mandate to close private and public schools until March 30 amid the coronavirus outbreak to help slow the spread.
Kane County currently has six cases according to the state. CBS 2 started asking questions after concerned loved ones contacted CBS 2. Church leadership quickly kicked CBS 2 off the grounds after school children were spotted inside the school Thursday.
Online, the self-proclaimed old fashioned church said it has stepped up cleaning efforts in the wake of COVID-19 but makes decisions to stay open “based on what is in the best interest of our people not because of government mandates.”
Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said the church pastor Keith Gomez refused to close the school, claiming his First Amendment rights.
The State’s Attorney now threatening a closure order if they don’t comply with the guidance of “numerous public health agencies at the local, state and federal levels to protect the public’s safety.”
The sheriff said this is a first of its kind for his department. It’s unclear how long it could take for this closure order to go into effect.
Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said the order only affects the school, not church services.