Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will allow religious services to resume with restrictions, the governor announced Saturday.
The Minnesota governor’s new order allows for worship to resume at 25% capacity and with social distancing, “to proceed as safely as possible during the COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency,” according to local outlet Kare11.
“I have had many meaningful conversations with faith leaders over the last few weeks,” Walz said in a statement, according to the publication.
“From a personal and public health perspective, the decision around places of worship has been a challenging one since the beginning of the pandemic,” he added. “We know large gatherings of people raise the risk of spreading COVID-19. We also know worship is an essential part of many Minnesotans’ lives, including mine.”
Walz had previously announced that restaurants, bars, and certain small businesses would be allowed to open at 50% capacity on June 1, but this order did not afford the same relaxation of restrictions to churches and instead limited church serves to 10 people.
Minnesota Catholic and Lutheran churches responded to Walz’s order in a Wednesday letter in which Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, told Walz that public masses in Minnesota would resume May 26.
#BREAKING: Minnesota Catholics and Lutherans tell @GovTimWalz they are reopening churches on May 26—after the Governor announced malls, salons, tattoo parlors, & casinos can open, but churches can’t. https://t.co/kz6RRGeWAR #MNChurchesMatter @MNCatholicConf @Mnnlcms @MNSDistrict pic.twitter.com/kXYexdCERH
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— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) May 20, 2020
“It concerns us, however, that we still are without a clear roadmap, metrics, or definite timeline from your administration about a phased re-opening,” the letter told Walz. “Executive Order 20-56, moreover, seems to have taken a step backward, imposing an explicit prohibition on faith-based gatherings where none had existed.”
“Your willingness, at the same time, to allow a ‘click forward’ for other sectors and activities on your dial –many of which cannot be classified as essential as the life of faith, prompts us to consider it necessary to move forward. We certainly remain ready to work with your administration as events unfold and circumstances change.”
Hebda responded to Walz’s Saturday announcement the same day, saying that he and the bishops of Minnesota are ” thankful that our conversations with the administration and state health officials have helped us to strengthen our plan for moving forward.”
“Governor Walz and the bishops of Minnesota share a common goal — enabling people of faith to safely return to the full practice of their faith,” Hebda added.
The governor’s decision to allow worship to resume at 25% capacity also comes after President Donald Trump called on governors Friday to open houses of worship “right now,” warning he will override governors’ orders if they do not allow Americans to attend religious services.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now,” Trump said. “For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
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