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Minnesota Caves to Defiant Churches, Okays Services with up to 250 People

05-23-2020
CBN News
CBN News

After refusing to allow houses of worship to reopen with any more than 10 people at services, Minnesota has caved and just announced it will lift that limitation.

That comes after Catholic and Lutheran churches announced this past Wednesday they were going ahead in defiance of the state and would begin to hold church services with up to 33 percent capacity.

“Good things happen when people of faith stand up for their rights,” Eric Rassbach at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said in a statement.  “Governor Tim Walz is to be commended for seeing the light.”  

Becket, which represents the churches, had sent the governor’s office a warning letter that Minnesota was violating the First Amendment since it was allowing most businesses to reopen with 50 percent capacity while allowing churches to gather with no more than 10 people present.

Grateful Legal Action Could be Avoided

Minnesota will now allow churches to reopen at 25 percent capacity with up to 250 people attending as of Wednesday, May 27.

“We are grateful that Minnesota decided to reopen churches, without needing to resort to legal action,” said Rev. Dr. Lucas Woodford of the Lutheran Missouri Synod.

“We are grateful that Governor Walz entered into respectful dialogue with us,” added Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese.  “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.”

As of May 23, only eight states continue to treat religious worship unequally, with the most populous state, California, among those eight.  Becket is pointing to a site keeping track of how states are treating their houses of worship in reopening plans.

Becket’s Rassbach concluded, “Minnesota is setting an example by recognizing the importance of giving equal treatment to churches and other houses of worship, and that worship services can be conducted safely, cooperatively and responsibly.  Other closed-church states are on notice.”

‘I Will Override the Governors’

President Trump weighed in on this controversy Friday, proclaiming houses of worship “essential.”   In doing so, he declared, “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend.  If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.  In America, we need more prayer, not less.”

Another legal group fighting for religious rights, Liberty Counsel, tied the president’s proclamation to what Memorial Day is commemorating.  

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said, “The First Amendment is our first freedom in the Bill of Rights precisely because houses of worship are essential to the success of America.  These oppressive orders against churches and houses of worship must end.  The best way to honor the men and women who died for our freedom is to live free.”

The group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) also praised President Trump’s demand that states allow houses of worship to reopen.

If Liquor Stores, Big Box Stores & Beaches Can be Open, Why Not Churches?

“The vast majority of American churches have cooperated with their state governments by temporarily suspending in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, this temporary suspension cannot become our new normal,” NYCF’s executive director Rev. Jason McGuire said.

“If a church is located in a COVID-19 hot spot, it may not be advisable for that church to reopen for in-person services at this time.  In many places, however, it is now safe for churches to begin holding in-person services again,” McGuire continued.   

He asked, “If government considers it safe to open liquor stores, big box stores, and beaches at a given location, why should it not be considered safe to reopen churches as well?  President Trump trusts America’s churches to practice social distancing and observe other health-related guidelines.”

Also weighing in is Miles McPherson, senior pastor at San Diego’s Rock Church.  He said, “The community often turns to their local church in a time of need. No one can find ‘hope’ in the aisle of a department store or by sitting in a restaurant. Churches specialize in offering hope and spiritual support through prayer and counseling. We look forward to churches across the US being able to open again and provide that much-needed hope and service to their communities.”

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