Peoria County officers break up parking lot church service amid pandemic

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell wants to remind people not to attend religious services in person.

He says under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay at home order, religious services are considered large gatherings and not essential.

On Wednesday, officers stopped a service in the parking lot of Lamarsh Baptist Church in Mapleton.

Sheriff Asbell says a group of about 20 cars were at the church. Currently, gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed. Asbell says with Easter and Passover holidays around the corner, the department is worried about potential spread of COVID-19.

WMBD reached out to Lamarsh Baptist Church about the service and was given no comment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many religious centers have begun hosting online video services.

In March, Willow Hill United Methodist Church pastor Bradley Watkins and several other congregation members entered into self-isolation after a churchgoer tested positive. The man, in his 70s, was the first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in Woodford County and central Illinois. Watkins said nearly 200 people attend services at the church every Sunday.

At the daily Tri-County COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion said people are putting lives at risk. He said people can be arrested for charges including disorderly conduct and reckless conduct.

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