Democratic Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has backed down from barring religious institutions from holding in-person services and has issued a new order allowing them to do so with some restrictions.
As some businesses across the state have begun to reopen, Walz’s new order allows churches to allow worship services at 25 percent capacity with other health-safety social distancing protocols in place.
“I have had many meaningful conversations with faith leaders over the last few weeks,” Walz said in a new statement, via the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“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’s turn of heart came after he initially said it was illegal for churches to resume their services. From the report:
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.
In response, Catholic and Lutheran churches across Minnesota announced they would resume in defiance of the governor.
In a letter to Walz, the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, announced public masses would continue Sunday, May 26.
“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 reverend said in the letter. “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,” he continued in the letter per the Daily Caller.
On Saturday, Hebda issued a statement after the governor changed courses and allowed the reopenings, saying: “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.”
#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
— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) May 20, 2020