By Tara Molina

CHICAGO (CBS) — Large religious gatherings are not allowed during the statewide stay-at-home order, but that’s not stopping some Chicago churches. In Belmont Cragin, some residents are so fed up with one church holding illegal services, they say they’re planning to protest outside on Sunday.

The church is in a neighborhood with a higher than average positivity rate for COVID-19. And that is why the man behind the plans says if the city won’t do anything to help stop the spread, the neighborhood will.

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Born and raised in Belmont Cragin, Alonso Zaragoza says this community is everything to him, and that is why he takes its safety personally.

“We’re balancing between number one and two in the city as far as COVID infections,” he says.

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So he says if the city won’t step in to stop the church from hosting services, drawing more than 100 people, during the stay at home order, the neighborhood will.

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“They’re not following the law,” Zaragoza says.

There is a silent protest planned outside Metro Praise International Sunday, where the members continue to gather illegally.

“It’s their choice to make, right? But when they go home or out into our neighborhood, they’re contaminating our restaurants, our stores and each other,” Zaragoza says. “That’s not a choice everyone else made. They’re making that choice for everyone else.”

CBS 2 reached out to the church several times this week and was eventually told the pastor is not doing interviews. But he has posted openly on the church’s Facebook page about past and planned services.

The mayor’s office did not answer CBS 2’s questions, instead referring to a call hosted earlier Friday with other reporters. In that call and in a letter sent to faith leaders Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hopes the city won’t have to step in and take any enforcement action, but if they have to, they will.

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The Chicago Police Department sent the following statement regarding the situation:

“We need the help of all residents to save lives so we can move on from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why we’re asking residents to stay home and practice social distancing so that once the pandemic is over, residents can return to their religious services in a safe manner. The statewide stay-at-home order is universal, regardless of neighborhood, community or district. The Chicago Police Department will continue working this weekend with all residents in the city to ensure full compliance with the mandate. We remain hopeful that we will not have to take any kind of enforcement action this weekend.”

Tara Molina