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Cristian Ionescu, a pastor in Chicago, believes Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker‘s shutdown order means churches have been “sentenced to death,” according to the Friendly Atheist.

  • Ionescu grew up in Romania under the communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and has compared Pritzker’s coronavirus response to the same kind of tyranny.
  • “So when I hear about shutting churches down without consent, without communication, without dialogue … it sounds like the same playbook the Communists used,” Ionescu has said.

But the Friendly Atheist noted there are obviously key differences between the two situations, particularly as Pritzker’s order:

(1) was issued by a democratically elected leader;

(2) will be in place for weeks or months, not indefinitely;

(3) subjects all public gatherings to the same temporary restriction, and doesn’t single out Christians or any other group;

(4) was implemented to save thousands of lives, not because a tyrant has it in for religious people;

(5) one hundred percent guarantees that every single person may worship, both privately at home and publicly/collectively via the Internet;

(6) was issued in a country where every two-bit church receives valuable tax breaks from the same government that people like Ionescu think is persecuting them; and

(7) is subject to review by an independent judiciary.

Still, Ionescu wrote on his blog on Monday that the order is a death sentence for churches:

We’ve been sentenced to death! Not by a firing squad, not by lethal injection and certainly not in the electric chair. It is more sinister. It is not by closing down the church, it is by keeping people away from it and from each other!

The pastor said, “You keep your church shut down for a year or more, your church will die! Your building might be there, at least for awhile, but a lot of people might not return!”

Ionescu suggested that people will come to prefer virtual church services because they are more convenient, which eventually will result in real churches being replaced by “a video game church.”

He is suing to allow churches to stay open:

Ionescu’s Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, along with Logos Baptist Ministries in nearby Niles, Ill., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court … to stop the state from enforcing the order.

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