Minnesota’s Catholic and Lutheran churches will reopen for in-person worship services in defiance of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s orders, citing the state’s prioritization of reopening businesses like casinos and tattoo parlors but neglecting houses of worship.
In a letter to the governor, the Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Reverend Bernard A. Hebda, affirms that public masses in the state would resume May 26.
The letter says that while the church has cooperated willfully, the state “seems to have taken a step backward” in regards to allowing churches to reopen while allowing a “click forward for other sectors and activities.”
“It concerns us, however, that we still are without a clear roadmap, metrics, or definite timeline from your administration about a phased re-opening.”
Walz announced Wednesday that bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen with limited outdoor seating, and barbershops, tattoo parlors and salons can reopen with safety restrictions June 1, according to KARE 11.
Retailers and small businesses are able to reopen at 50% capacity.
Campgrounds and charter boats can also reopen at that date. Many casinos in the state have already reopened as part of the state’s Stay Safe MN order, which began Monday.
Churches, however, are limited to 10 people with no date offered for when they can fully resume services. Over 700 Catholic and Lutheran churches allege that they have been treated as second-class citizens while the state prioritized liquor stores, pet grooming, cannabis operations, and other services. (RELATED: Justice Department Becomes Involved In Virginia Church’s Religious Freedom Lawsuit Against Gov. Ralph Northam)
“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,” Becket Law, the firm representing the churches, said in a press release.
#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
The churches will be practicing social-distancing and other safety measures while opening at 30% capacity.
“Darkness and despair have taken hold of so many of our fellow Americans in the face of the economic and social hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Archbishop Hebda, according to the press release.
“Faith has always been a source of comfort and strength and now more than ever it is of the utmost importance that we are able to meet the spiritual needs of our community.”
Earlier in May, two Minnesota churches and several business owners filed a lawsuit alleging the governor’s executive orders unfairly picked “winners and losers” by closing some businesses, schools and places of worship, while large retail chains were able to continue operations, Star Tribune reported.
The lawsuit states that the governor’s orders violate first amendment rights to free speech and exercise of religion, amounting to deprivation of liberty.
“Worshipers across Minnesota have been prohibited from assembling to celebrate Easter and the Passover, while liquor stores have remained open,” says the lawsuit.