(The Center Square) – Gov. Tim Walz is allowing houses of worship to open at 25 percent capacity starting Wednesday if they follow safety precautions.
The announcement follows one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for reopening churches, which President Donald Trump deemed as “essential.”
Walz came under fire last week when he allowed restaurants and bars to reopen and serve up to 50 people outside on June 1, but limited houses of worship to 10 people, both inside and outside.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Districts of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod announced they would reopen next week to prepare for Pentecost Sunday on May 31.
“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 a 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,” they continued.
Walz said he met with faith leaders to ensure clear guidelines for safe services.
“I have had many meaningful conversations with faith leaders over the last few weeks,” Walz said in a statement. “From a personal and public health perspective, the decision around places of worship has been a challenging one since the beginning of the pandemic. We know large gatherings of people raise the risk of spreading COVID-19. We also know worship is an essential part of many Minnesotans’ lives, including mine.”
Walz urged Minnesotans to limit in-person interaction and for people in high-risk categories to stay home.
Executive Order 20-62 allows religious buildings, funerals, and weddings to hold events at 25 percent capacity up to a maximum of 250 people inside or outside if they adhere to safety precautions, social distancing, and implement a COVID-19 preparedness plan.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, welcomed the new decision.
“I want to thank the faith leaders who stepped up to make sure religious groups were not treated differently than other businesses. Many of them have spent the last several months adapting their ministry in preparation for reopening. They rightfully felt left behind as other businesses were given more room to reopen,” Gazelka said in a statement.
“As faiths share a value for human life, I know that each leader will take extra care to protect and serve their people," he continued. "We have to be able to trust one another if we are ever going to be able to reopen.”