Minnesota Allows Churches to Reopen at 25 Percent Capacity After Catholics and Lutherans Threaten to Defy Governor’s Order Restricting Services to 10 People

The Cathedral of St. Paul. Catholic Archbishop Bernard Hebda said it’s up to parishes to decide if they’re ready for a return to public mass.

Days after Minnesota’s Catholic and Lutheran churches publicly declared they would defy Gov. Tim Walz’s order restricting in-person services to no more than 10 people, the state has announced it’s lifting that limitation to let larger groups gather for worship beginning Wednesday.

At a press briefing Saturday, Gov. Walz announced that churches will be able to hold services starting Wednesday if they follow social distancing guidelines and limit the gatherings to not more than 25% of a building’s capacity, MinnPost reported.

The governor has recognized that churches can reopen safely and carefully in the same way as malls and other business operations, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which along with Sidley Austin LLP had written to Waltz about his previous order violating the First Amendment, said in a statement Saturday.

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Last Wednesday, The Minnesota Catholic Conference and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod had also sent separate letters to the governor saying they would defy the reopening order.

“We were disappointed to find that instead, you allowed retail and other non-critical businesses to open, setting a plan in place for bars and restaurants to reopen while limiting churches to meetings of [10] people or fewer,” the Lutheran body wrote in the letter. “In the absence of a timeline or any other assurances that churches will soon be able to reopen, we find that we must move forward with our religious exercise in a safe manner.”

After the governor’s change of mind following a meeting with church leaders, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis expressed gratitude.

“We are grateful that Governor Walz entered into respectful dialogue with us, recognized the spiritual needs of our faithful, and agreed that it is possible to resume worship services safely and responsibly,” Hebda said. “Hopefully, our experience of constructive dialogue can serve as a roadmap for churches across the country suffering from similar inequities, whether intended or unintended, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar

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