CHICAGO (CBS) — No masks were required, and hugs or any other physical touch were OK – those were the rules at a church that held a service Sunday on the Northwest Side.
The pastor is taking a defiant stance against stay-at-home rules. CBS 2’s Steven Graves spoke to him and found out not everyone agrees.
The rule from the State of Illinois is that 10 people or fewer are allowed at churches right now. But Metro Praise International Church in Belmont Cragin had about 50 people inside on Sunday.
Members of the church say they go by the rules of faith.
Thus, as their live stream showed I, there were no masks on some people as they sang praises and six-foot social distancing was a choice.
“That’s a part of our freedom of religion, we believe,” said the church’s Pastor Joseph Wyrostek.
Hand sanitizer and wipes are available at the door. But the Christian congregation believes in the healing power of touch – even amid a months-long pandemic.
“I will take the risk to hug you because I believe it’s good for you if you’re willing to take that risk at this point and you say you need it,” Wryostek said, “and the church should be there.”
Graves asked member and soon-to-be mother Sadiah Sarraj why even risk it, and if she might be putting the baby at risk.
“I put my trust in Jesus,” Sarraj said. “I put the baby at risk even if I go to Walmart.”
But stores like Walmart require masks. Gov. JB Pritzker made the rule along with the religious one after consulting with health experts.
Those expert say science shows the practices will protect others and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Some people on the church’s Facebook page agree. Someone wrote, “Follow the rules or get shut down.”
Other Illinois churches have tried to defy the rules. One near Rockford filed a lawsuit leaning on religious rights, but it failed.
“It might not be appropriate for everyone to go back to life as normal, but let’s start normalizing life in the church again,” Wryostek said.
Graves did see at least one police car ride by the service. He asked Wryostek if the church would comply if authorities shut him down or enforced the rules.
The pastor said he would evaluate that when the time comes.
Chicago Police said they did receive calls, but they said precautions were in place when they arrived. No citations were issued.