(The Center Square) – Gov. Tim Walz will allow bars and restaurants to serve up to 50 guests outside on June 1, and limit church services to 10 residents inside or outside.
When asked about the five-to-one disparity between outdoor dining and religious ceremonies, Walz responded, “There is not a perfect answer.”
Some Christian denominations are done waiting.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis wrote in a letter that churches can resume Mass on Tuesday to prepare for Pentecost Sunday on May 31 and adhere to social distancing protocols, sanitization, and limit capacity to one-third.
“The human cost to this pandemic has been extraordinary, not just in terms of lives lost to the virus but the rapidly growing problems of job loss, depression, crime and violence, and substance abuse,” Archbishop Rev. Bernard A. Hebda wrote.
Hebda said they suspended obligations to attend Sunday Mass and encouraged at-risk members to stay home.
The letter notes that current executive orders allow big-box stores to have hundreds of people inside.
“An order that sweeps so broadly that it prohibits, for example, a gathering of 11 people in a Cathedral with a seating capacity of several thousand defies reason,” the letter reads.
Some Lutherans plan to open earlier than allowed as well.
The Minnesota North and South Districts of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod sent a letter to their churches, Walz, and Attorney General Keith Ellison, notifying them of plans to hold their first worship service on Pentecost Sunday.
Both groups said they had requested more information on how they could reopen safely.
“Now that you have deemed it safe to reopen non-critical businesses in Minnesota, we believe that the essential business of caring for the spiritual needs of our flocks with in-person meetings must also resume in a limited capacity,” Revs. Drs. Donald Fondow and Lucas Woodford wrote.
“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,” they continued.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R- East Gull Lake, said he was “dumbfounded” by continued religious service restrictions.
“Throughout history, the church has gathered in times of distress, anxiety, war, and pandemic. I see no reason why churches are any more dangerous a place for coronavirus transmission than Walmart or a mall,” Gazelka said in a statement.
“We have to allow people to get back to their lives... [I]f you can get a haircut, shop at a mall, or eat at a restaurant, you should be able to go to church.”
Walz’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Upper Midwest Law Center sued Walz earlier this month on behalf of churches, arguing the restriction on in-person services was unconstitutional.