The battle over COVID-19 restrictions, and now over churches fighting for the legal right to hold services, has popped up in a Minnesota court.
Three churches filed suit last week in federal court challenging Gov. Tim Walz over his mask mandate and an executive order limiting the number of people who can attend a service, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The churches that are suing are Cornerstone Church in Alexandria; Land of Promise, located near Buffalo; and Lifespring church in Crosby.
The lawsuit names Gov. Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and county attorneys in the three counties of Douglas, Wright, and Crow Wing.
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel says Minnesota's regulations are typical of other states and he insists that most are blatantly unconstitutional.
“All of these restrictions on churches,” he says, “whether you have to wear a mask or certainly the size restrictions, or even the micromanagement of what happens inside a church, I think, are clearly beyond the state's authority to regulate.”
The most notable legal fight is taking place in California, where Pastor John MacArthur is defying state orders and now a court ruling by holding Sunday services at Grace Community Church. After meeting for three weeks in a row, and defying state mandates, the church gathered August 16 after a late-night court decision banned services while litigation is ongoing.
“We’re having church,” MacArthur announced from the pulpit Sunday morning.
MacArthur and the church filed suit against the city, county, and state August 13.
Back in Minnesota, the churches’ lawsuit states the churches are involved in “criminal activities” according to the controversial mandates and thus church attendance has declined for fear of punishment.
Attorney Erick Kaardal, who is representing all three churches, said in a statement:
Christians of all denominations, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews are bound by their faith to worship together. Time-honored rites and rituals, including prayers, singing, communion, and a laying of hands in blessing, are among those elements that comprise the free exercise of religion.
Staver says it appears that most U.S. churches are not challenging state and local restrictions, and some have shut their doors for the remainder of the year. If church members decide church is that unnecessary, he says, they should shut the doors for good.
“They're going to lose a lot of their membership,” he says, “because we get a lot of people contacting us saying how disappointed they are in their churches, and they're tired of supporting churches that are built on sand.”
Regarding the church-related lawsuits being filed in recent days and weeks, Staver says the courts are split over the issue and thus he predicts a case will eventually wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.