Churches Will Defy Governor’s Lockdown, Reopen May 26. If Abortion Clinics Can Open, “Why Can’t We?”

Ryan Colby

The Minnesota Catholic Conference and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in Minnesota sent Governor Tim Walz separate letters today announcing that they would be resuming worship services on May 26 despite Governor Walz’s current COVID-19 executive order which allows retailers to operate at 50 percent capacity but caps church worship services at ten people. Governor Walz’s latest re-opening order allows the Mall of America to open its doors to those seeking retail therapy but disallows churches from providing spiritual healing to their congregations. At the same time, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sent Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison a legal letter explaining why continuing to keep churches closed violates the First Amendment. Also representing the Catholic and Lutheran Churches is global law firm Sidley Austin LLP.

On May 13, 2020, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order with guidelines for reopening commerce in the State of Minnesota. The order allows malls, shops, and other retailers to open their doors at fifty percent capacity, allows businesses—from pet-grooming services to medical cannabis operations—to resume in-person operations, and even announces a phased plan for reopening bars and restaurants, but explicitly leaves in place bans on in-person worship services for more than ten people. Even Minnesota casinos are reopening starting May 26. After weeks of dialogue with Governor Walz to try to achieve equal treatment for houses of worship, today the Catholic and Lutheran Churches announced that they would resume worship services for their congregations at thirty-three percent capacity on Tuesday, May 26, with Pentecost Sunday, May 31, as the first day of Sunday services. The churches have committed to instituting rigorous social distancing and hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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