Gov. Tim Walz, health officials to meet with church leaders who are set to defy order

The governor is keeping indoor church services closed for now, prompting anger from Christian leaders.
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Governor Tim Walz has said he will be meeting with church leaders who on Wednesday announced their plans to defy his latest guidance for coronavirus by reopening for services sooner than the state thinks is safe.

The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Minnesota's other six dioceses have said churches have the option of reopening for Mass starting May 26, with the Minnesota Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod following suit shortly after by saying services can resume May 31.

Earlier in the day, Walz announced "Phase II" of reopening that will allow salons to serve customers and restaurants/bars to offer outdoor dining, but kept restrictions in place for churches, which limits them to gatherings of no more than 10 people indoors or outdoors.

Walz admitted himself that there was no "perfect answer" on this, noting that even when churches reopen there might be restrictions on things like singing following anecdotal evidence of outbreaks of the coronavirus among choirs.

And while he has already faced pushback over the shutdowns from bars and restaurants, particularly in greater Minnesota, Walz is now finding himself up against the Catholic church and the second largest branch of the Lutheran church in the state.

He will be meeting with the Archdiocese this week along with officials from the Minnesota Department of Health. It's not clear yet if he will meet with the Missouri-Synod.

His spokesman Teddy Tschann said that the governor "remains in routine communication with faith leaders across the state and understands the toll this pandemic is taking on the spiritual health of Minnesotans."

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The governor's decision has faced criticism from Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, who has regularly criticized the speed at which the state is being reopened despite coronavirus cases and deaths not having yet peaked.

"We have flattened the curve and we have prepared our hospitals and clinics with PPE and ventilators," he said Wednesday.

"We have to allow people to get back to their lives. If you can get a haircut, shop at a mall, or eat at a restaurant, you should be able to go to church."

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