The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, a Democrat, passed several executive orders in recent days that implemented many of these restrictions. Many of the new protocols specifically target people who merely want to participate in religious services.
The three churches challenging what they view to be a violation of the freedom to worship are the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Alexandria in western Minnesota; the Land of Promise Church right outside of Buffalo, northwest of Minneapolis; and Lifespring Church in Crosby, central Minnesota.
Their legal complaint, filed with the help of a conservative legal group, argues that Walz and other state officials are infringing on their religious liberties, which are protected by the First Amendment, by preventing people from attending their services through the imposition of a mask mandate. They are also challenging an executive order that limits the number of people who are allowed to attend religious services by requiring the enforcement of social distancing protocols.
The state's coronavirus protocols, they argue, are preventing churches from conducting many of their rites and rituals, such as how mask mandates are preventing them from performing proper prayers and singing songs and how social distancing is preventing them from performing the laying of the hands in blessing and the receiving of communion.
The churches are asking federal courts to declare Walz's executive orders regarding masks and social distancing to be unconstitutional due to their conflict with the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment.
“Gov. Walz wants to prosecute Minnesotans for religious attendance,” read a statement from Erick Kaardal, one of the attorneys that represent the three churches. “We are going to do our best not to see that happen.”
“Minnesota's governor is wreaking havoc on the religious freedoms of the faithful. Christians of all denominations, Muslims and Orthodox Jews are bound by their faith to worship together.”
In response to the lawsuit, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, another Democrat, said that his office reviews every executive order before it is sent to Walz for him to sign to make sure that it complies with both state and federal law.
“I stand by the legality and constitutionality of this executive order. We will defend it strongly in court just as we have so far successfully defended others in court.”
Ellison is referring to the fact that it has, since the third week of July, spent over $170,000 and 1,3000 staff hours defending the state's coronavirus restrictions against lawsuits and petitions. Ellison claims that they have a 100 percent success rate.
The face mask mandates are approaching. Learn more about it by listening to this episode of the Health Ranger Report, a podcast by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, as he talks about how President Donald Trump was right when he said that wearing masks work, and that wearing face coverings should be entirely voluntary.
Fortunately, the three Minnesota churches are not alone in fighting for religious liberties across the country. For places of worship in Minnesota, this is not the first time they have sued the state. In May, two churches sued Walz over what they believed to be excessively restrictive stay-at-home orders, which prevented religious institutions from conducting indoor services.
Walz has also been fighting with several Roman Catholic churches and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod churches across Minnesota over his coronavirus restrictions. The strain of all these legal battles forced Walz to slightly relent by allowing churches to hold indoor services at 25 percent capacity if certain conditions have been met.
In the city of Palmetto in western Florida, Rev. Joel Tillis of the Suncoast Baptist Church filed a lawsuit challenging a county-level mask mandate. The reverend is arguing that the mask mandate should not extend to places of worship because it hinders their ability to congregate.
The Thomas More Society, which specializes in lawsuits concerning religious matters, sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials to prevent them from enforcing “unconstitutional and onerous coronavirus pandemic regulations.” The main plaintiff is Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Los Angeles, led by Pastor John MacArthur, who has been holding regular worship services in defiance of state protocols.
According to the lawsuit, churches and other religious institutions should get an exemption from the ban on large gatherings because demonstrations held against racism and police brutality have, at least in practice, received their own exemptions. (Related: CNN hypocritically smears Christians for worship concert, says nothing about Democrats in Black Lives Matter protests.)
“We will obey God rather than men,” said MacArthur in a message to his congregation. “He will be on our side.”
Jenna Ellis, one of the two Thomas More Society lawyers representing MacArthur, said that California's restrictions have gone past the point of being “rational or reasonable” and should now be considered tyrannical and discriminatory against religious people.
“This isn't about health,” said Ellis. “This is about blatantly targeting churches.”
In response, Los Angeles County filed a counter-lawsuit against Grace Community Church in order to get their indoor and in-person worship services stopped. Unfortunately for them, many other churches across California are following Grace Community's lead, such as Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, Ventura County, where Pastor Rob McCoy vowed to continue in-person services.
The Thomas More Society has helped achieve victories for religious liberties all over the country, such as back in May when Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, another Democrat, was forced to make exemptions for houses of worship regarding certain coronavirus pandemic-related mandates. Kaardal, who represents the three churches in the Minnesota case, is himself affiliated with the society.
Learn more about how churches and other conservative-leaning institutions across the country are fighting back against tyrannical and oppressive coronavirus mandates by reading the articles at Pandemic.news.