A law firm in Minnesota succeeded in its fight for religious freedom after the governor lifted the state's occupancy limitation on houses of worship. It also plans to help all other churches in America enjoy the same.
In accordance with the state's guidance released on March 12, Gov. Tim Walz declared that the limitation on church attendance will be removed, effective March 15. The rule maintained the six-foot social distancing "between households." Eating and drinking are forbidden, except for performing a ritual, such as taking the Communion. Singing is also permitted but congregants must remain masked.
FaithWire said that the pastors of Life Spring Church, Cornerstone Church of Alexandria and Calvary Chapel have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison over the state's pandemic restrictions, in August last year.
The pastors were represented by Thomas More Society, contending that the governor's Executive Order 21-11 "criminalizes conduct of church attendees, suppresses plaintiffs' ability to worship and practice their religion in houses of worship, and restricts the ability of the plaintiffs to associate with other members of the faith."
The law firm is also planning to terminate restrictions on all other churches in America, according to its special counsel, Erick Kaardal.
"Next, our plan is to similarly abolish all the other states' remaining limitations on church attendance, which have been occurring nationwide," Kaardal said.
The lawyer argued that the governor's pandemic restriction on churches is unconstitutional.
"Finally, one of things we will remember about the Minnesota governor's response to fear of COVID is the unconstitutional, discriminatory treatment of churches and synagogues. State-imposed limits on church attendance are never constitutionally okay."
He concluded by saying that the houses of worship should be recognized as "essential".
"From the very beginning, this governor, and those in other states, should have recognized that houses of worship fit within the definition of 'essential.' You can't get much more essential than church, faith, and someone's relationship with God," Kaardal stated.
Thomas More Society is a nonprofit, Chicago-based law firm "dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty" in America.
In addition to churches, the state also eliminated the occupancy restrictions on establishments offering personal services such as salons, tattoo and barber shops, retaining the six feet social distance.
The guidance also eased the restrictions on social gatherings, bars and restaurants, fitness centers and entertainment venues, with "successive easings" effective April. The rule also entailed that by April 15, work-from-home arrangement will be removed.
The decision was made following the decreasing record of deaths and hospitalizations caused by COVID-19, as a result of increasing number of individuals getting vaccinated.
The state officials urged that people who are in frequent interaction with others should be regularly tested. They also pointed out that everyone in the state should take the vaccine.
As of this writing, Minnesota already has 508,541 cases and 6,798 deaths due to COVID-19. Total number of people vaccinated is 1,454,834.
"We're winning, and this thing is coming to an end," Gov. Walz said during his announcement of lifting the restrictions on Friday.