Editor's note: What do you think of Minnesota's Catholic and other churches opening up services that don't comply with the governor's guidelines? Would you attend? Email reporter Jean Hopfensperger today for a Star Tribune story.
Minnesota’s Catholic Church and a conservative Lutheran denomination said Wednesday they’ll resume worship services next week in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order limiting religious services to 10 people.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Minnesota sent separate letters to Walz announcing they would resume worship services May 26. To date, the novel coronavirus has resulted in the death of 777 Minnesotans.
Noting that “darkness and despair” have gripped the country, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a statement that “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.”
The move comes as businesses and some political leaders have pushed back on the Walz administration’s strategy for the gradual reopening of the state in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The move by the churches comes after “weeks of dialogue” with the governor, they said in a news release. Services will resume for congregations at 33% capacity next Tuesday with Pentecost on the following Sunday.
The churches say they have committed to “instituting rigorous social distancing and hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said the governor “remains in routine communication with faith leaders across the state and understands the toll this pandemic is taking on the spiritual health of Minnesotans.”
He said Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health will be meeting with church leaders this week.
In addition, a group called the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sent Walz and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison a “legal letter” claiming the continued closure of churches violates the First Amendment.
On May 13, Walz issued an executive order permitting malls and some retailers to open at 50% capacity, and on Wednesday the governor announced a phased-in plan to permit bars, restaurants, salons, barbershops and other businesses to reopen June 1 at reduced capacity. However, the ban remains on in-person worship services for more than 10 people.
The Rev. Lucas Woodford, president of the Minnesota District of the LCMS, saidthat it’s “disheartening that the governor has subordinated our spiritual well-being to the economic well-being of the state.”
The synod is a conservative branch of the Lutheran faith.