Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) on Saturday said indoor religious services could resume soon statewide with some limits, days after two churches said they would begin holding services next week, regardless of a ban.
Waltz reached an agreement with faith leaders to allow services to be held at 25 percent capacity starting next Wednesday, he announced during a news briefing, a day after President Trump threatened to “override” governors who did not immediately let places of worship reopen.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered guidelines for faith communities during the pandemic. Walz said the CDC announcement, coupled with talks with Vice President Pence and Minnesota religious leaders, led to Saturday’s decision.
Minnesota’s shelter-at-home order had also been challenged in court by churches whose representatives argued they “simply wish to incorporate the same health requirements that the governor applies to a restaurant or a candy store.”
Opening his remarks by wishing “our Muslim neighbors” a blessed Eid Mubarak, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Waltz noted how his own parish has conducted virtual services during the coronavirus outbreak.
“During the pandemic,” Walz said, “faith is a critical component of this.”
However, he encouraged houses of worship to continue to hold virtual services to keep congregants and the community safe.
“This is a floor, not a ceiling. The expectations are that … every time we make a move, we understand that there is an inherent risk of spreading covid-19,” Walz said. “I would be clear to Minnesotans: the worst is not yet passed in terms of infections and infections rate.”
The Minnesota Department of Health recorded 847 new cases and 10 new coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday.
Earlier in the week, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod churches announced intentions to defy Walz’s order, which banned houses of worship from holding gatherings of more than 10 people, though the state moved to reopen some businesses with social distancing guidelines. The churches contended the order was a violation of First Amendment rights.