Since the Protestant Reformation, Catholics and Lutherans have been divided. But no longer. The Minnesota Catholic Bishops and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Minnesota have united to send a letter to Gov. Tim Walz, D-Minn., telling him they are reopening on May 26 in spite of his executive order.

Gov. Walz’s most recent COVID-19 order allows retailers to reopen at 50% capacity and allows the Mall of America to reopen along with pet-grooming services, cannabis operations, bars, restaurants and casinos. However, his order continues to prohibit churches from reopening with more than 10 people in attendance.

Prior to Gov. Walz issuing his stay-at-home order, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod voluntarily suspended in person worship services to protect the health of their congregants.

Both the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Lutheran Church sent Gov. Walz separate letters explaining their decision to reopen. Additionally, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty along with the law firm Sidley Austin LLP sent Gov. Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison a letter defending the churches legal basis for reopening under the First Amendment.

In his letter to Gov. Walz and Attorney General Ellison, Catholic Archbishop Hebda explained, “Executive Order 20-56 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, many of which cannot be classified as essential as the life of faith, prompts us to consider it necessary to move forward.”

The Lutheran Church Presidents in their letter said, “We were disappointed to find that 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 ten people or fewer. 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.”

The letter by the Becket Fund and Sidley Austin LLP told Gov. Walz and Attorney General Ellison that their discrimination singling out churches to remain closed violates their Constitutional rights.

“We are also aware that Minnesota casinos are beginning to open. However, while reopening malls and restaurants, your order continues the indefinite ban on worship services that involve more than 10 participants. This unequal and unfair treatment violates the Churches’ cherished constitutional freedoms and, more importantly, hobbles unconscionably their pastoral mission,” the letter explained.

It’s one thing for churches to voluntarily, temporarily close their doors to protect the public health. It’s quite another for a Governor to order churches to remain closed while simultaneously reopening bars, casinos and cannabis shops.

Do you think the Minnesota churches should be allowed to reopen now that many other places of business can do so?


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