Thousands of churches across the nation — Catholic, Lutheran, nondenominational, and more — are saying no to governors still curtailing Americans’ First Amendment rights under the guise of “safety.”
In Minnesota, over 700 Catholic and Lutheran churches acquired assistance from a law firm, Becket Law, to stand their ground against the infringement of their religious freedom, informing Democratic Governor Tim Walz that they will be re-opening their churches on May 26 with or without his consent.
Similarly, a movement headed by megachurch pastor Brian Gibson dubbed “Peaceably Gather” has reportedly gained steam with thousands of churches across the country signing on to reopen their houses of worship despite lockdown orders.
“Minnesota Catholics and Lutherans tell [Governor Tim Walz] they are reopening churches on May 26 — after the Governor announced malls, salons, tattoo parlors, & casinos can open, but churches can’t,” Becket Law announced Wednesday. “The leadership of over 700 Catholic and Lutheran churches, represented by [BECKET Law] & [Sidley Law], told [Governor Tim Walz] and [Attorney General] Keith Ellison that the First Amendment doesn’t let the government put churches at the back of the line during reopening.”
The leadership of over 700 Catholic and Lutheran churches, represented by @BECKETlaw & @SidleyLaw, told @GovTimWalz and AG @keithellison that the First Amendment doesn’t let the government put churches at the back of the line during reopening. https://t.co/KfQJ9IbS0n (2/8)
— BECKET (@BECKETlaw) May 20, 2020
“The Minnesota Catholic Conference and The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod in Minnesota sent Governor Tim Walz separate letters today announcing that they would be resuming worship services on May 26 despite Governor Walz’s current COVID-19 executive order which allows retailers to operate at 50 percent capacity but caps church worship services at ten people,” a press release from the law firm stated.
“Governor Walz’s latest re-opening order allows the Mall of America to open its doors to those seeking retail therapy but disallows churches from providing spiritual healing to their congregations,” the law firm argued. “At the same time, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sent Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison a legal letter explaining why continuing to keep churches closed violates the First Amendment. Also representing the Catholic and Lutheran Churches is global law firm Sidley Austin LLP.”
In a letter to Governor Walz dated May 20, the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota said they will resume public masses on May 26.
“Earlier this afternoon, the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota announced that they would resume public masses beginning May 26,” reads the letter, signed by Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis Bemard A. Hebda. “The attached letter from the Bishops to their faithful, explaining the decision, was posted on all six of the diocesan websites.”
“We do not take this step lightly,” the letter continues, adding that it’s of “concern” “that we still are without a clear roadmap, metrics, or definite timeline from your administration about a phased re-opening.”
“Executive Order 20-56 … seems to have taken a step backward, imposing an explicit prohibition on faith-based gatherings where none had existed,” Hebda writes. “Your willingness, at the same time, to allow a ‘click forward’ for other sectors and activities on your dial-many of which cannot be classified as essential as the life of faith, prompts us to consider it necessary to move forward. We certainly remain ready to work with your administration as events unfold and circumstances change.”
The letter notes that Catholics “voluntarily suspended our public worship without anyone’s direction or your executive order. Now, in light of the relevant information available, and based on the public activities that your administration is now allowing, we have concluded that many of our parishes are ready to safely resume Mass, albeit in a limited way, next week.”
“We feel compelled by pastoral need to provide our people with an opportunity to come together on pentecost, before the Easter season concludes,” the letter adds, “we hope that the care with which we have prepared for a return to in-person worship will publicly manifest that we continue to share your goal of protecting lives and safeguarding the well-being of the community during this challenging time.”
This Sunday, Pastor Gibson is headed to a church in the blue state of Illinois to preach to the faithful. According to the pastor, the church he’ll preach at has a mostly immigrant congregation that fled religious targeting.
On PeaceablyGather.com, the movement offers pro-bono services and advice from First Liberty Institute, a non-profit law firm with a focus on religious freedom. “Their services will be provided to you free of charge,” the site says.