We generally supported the easing of restrictions on church services that Gov. Tim Walz implemented after strong discussions and pushback from religious leaders. But that doesn’t absolve the churches and their leaders from keeping the faithful healthy. And alive.

Catholic and some Lutheran church leaders had vowed to defy Walz’ original executive order for a 10-person limit to church services. Walz, to his credit, met with the leaders after they announced plans to defy the order and allowed for churches to open to no more than 25 percent capacity for a limit of 250. Singing in a congregate setting is still prohibited. The order also allowed for weddings and funerals, but not receptions.

Catholic leaders reiterated that no one should go to church if they don’t feel safe, and attending Mass is not required per usual Catholic doctrine.

We understand the critical role worship plays in physical, mental and spiritual health of Minnesotans. Freedom to practice religion is enshrined in the Constitution and for that reason there should be an extremely high bar for its prohibition.

Still, we hope faith leaders see the responsibility they have taken on by their opposition to an order that arguably would keep more of their congregations safe from COVID-19 than their pushed-for re-opening.

The physical building of a church and the gathering for a church service is one of the riskiest settings for the spread of the coronavirus, according to health officials.

It’s more risky than Walmart because the time people are together and their proximity to one another far exceeds the risk of catching COVID via the passing of strangers in a Walmart aisle.

COVID-19 certainly gives congregations plenty of motivation to pray. Let’s hope those prayers also keep them safe.

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