Under legal pressure, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz rescinded the state's 50 percent occupancy limitation for religious services on Monday via executive order. Masks and social distancing restrictions are to remain in effect, however.
"Places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for wedding ceremonies, funeral services, or other planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, or scripture studies are strongly encouraged to offer virtual alternatives to the maximum extent possible," Walz wrote in Exectuive Order 21-11.
"Places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for wedding services, funeral services, or other planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, or scripture studies must develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in accordance with applicable guidance available on the Stay Safe Minnesota website."
The legal group Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit against Walz and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in August, saying Walz's executive order "[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 dominoes are falling in favor of abolishing the states' limitations on church attendance," Thomas More Society special counsel Erick Kaardal said. "Minnesota has abolished its church attendance limitations. Next, our plan is to similarly abolish all the other states' remaining limitations on church attendance, which have been occurring nationwide."