FILE – Church pews

(The Center Square) – A pastor encouraging churches across the country to re-open in spite of any local or state restrictions is making a stop in Illinois.

Brian Gibson is pastor of HIS Church, a nondenominational megachurch with locations in Kentucky and Texas. He is set to preach this Sunday at Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church on Chicago’s north side.

“The government doesn't get to tell us when we're going to worship or how we're going to worship,” Gibson said. “We have the First Amendment and we just really believe that every day the church is closed a bit of liberty dies.”

The most recent change to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order allowed churches across the state to hold gatherings of up to 10 people, as long as those attending abide by social distancing rules. Gibson said those restrictions still amount to an overreach by the government.

“I made a pledge that anywhere in America, if you're afraid, if you're scared of a governor that's acting like a dictator and overreaching the constitutional bounds that I'm not afraid, I'll come and stand with you and preach the gospel,” Gibson said. “And if we have to be arrested together for the preaching of the gospel and the First Amendment, I'm willing to go.”

Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church was one church affected last Sunday when Chicago police blocked parking at some lots in order to enforce the governor's stay-at-home order.

Officials then issued $500 fines to three houses of worship that held services, including Elim.

“This is a group of people in the immigrant community,” Gibson said. “They come from a totalitarian government and had no freedom of worship. They come to America seeking Lady Liberty and they get thuggery from the hand of the Chicago mayor.”

Gibson also is the founder of the “Peaceably Gather” movement, which he says is a response to elected leaders across the country that are unconstitutionally targeting the attempt by places of worship to safely gather their members. It began when local officials in Kentucky shut down his church’s outdoor Easter celebration.

“We're standing in the parking lot looking across at the fast food places, giving out French fries, the liquor stores serving their patrons, the coffee shops doing lattes,” Gibson said. “And the message was loud and clear: we deem those groups essential, but the church isn't smart enough to give some candy to kids in the name of Jesus.”

He says more than 200 churches opened their doors last Sunday to take part in the campaign and thousands more are expected this week.

“Church is essential,” Gibson said. “It's more essential than a grocery store. According to [the] Constitution, it's more central than a liquor store, a dispensary, or an abortion clinic. All of these governors who have told us that church isn't essential, I'm hoping that we let them know that they are no longer essential come the next voting cycle.”

Pritzker has repeatedly said that he wants to see churches reopen safely.

The Center Square Correspondent

A radio veteran with nearly twenty years of experience, Scot Bertram is the General Manager of Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, the student radio station at Hillsdale College. Bertram is also the co-host of "Political Beats" for National Review Online.