Defying State Orders, Church Leaders to Hold In-Person Services

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Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Connecticut recovery centers not filling up … Endangered Species Act challenge can continue … A mayor offers up free milk.

Church leaders in California and Minnesota are vowing to violate state restrictions on religious gatherings and hold services on Pentecost Sunday, which is May 31. More than 1,200 pastors sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom saying they planned to open their doors that day, even though religious services aren’t allowed until the third phase of the state’s reopening plan. In Minnesota, Catholic leaders and the heads of some Lutheran churches said they planned to hold in-person services, with Archbishop Bernard Hebda notifying Gov. Tim Walz that Catholic churches would reopen on May 26 and then be ready to celebrate the Pentecost the following week. “Faith has always been a source of comfort and strength and now more than ever it is of the utmost importance that we are able to meet the spiritual needs of our community,” he wrote. Hebda said churches only would operate at 33% capacity and enforce social distancing, but Walz’s order allowing some reopening in the state requires in-person religious gatherings to be limited to 10 people. A spokesman for Walz said the governor plans to meet with church leaders this week, and he “understands the toll this pandemic is taking on the spiritual health of Minnesotans.” The U.S. Justice Department has vowed to intervene in legal challenges of state restrictions that the agency believes limits religious activities more than secular ones. But earlier this month, a federal judge in California ruled Newsom had a right to temporarily ban in-person services to protect public health.   [Los Angeles Times; Star Tribune

FEW IN RECOVERY CENTERS | Covid-19 recovery centers created in Connecticut aren’t getting many patients, with the operator saying either the state should expand the patients allowed to be admitted or they will have to close one of the facilities. [Hartford Courant]

ASKING TRUMP TO WEAR A MASK | Ahead of President’s Trump visit to a Ford plant on Thursday, the Michigan attorney general sent him a letter asking the president to wear a face mask on his tour in accordance with Ford’s policy mandating masks and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order requiring them in public places. “While my Department will not act to prevent you from touring Ford’s plant, I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford — and across this State — by wearing a facial covering,” Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote. But Trump did not wear a mask, although he showed reporters he had one with him and said he wore it briefly when not in front of the cameras. "I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," the president said.  [Washington Post; CNN]

ENDANGERED SPECIES | A federal judge ruled this week that 19 states can proceed with their lawsuit against the Trump administration over changes they made to the Endangered Species Act, despite the administration’s request that the suit be dismissed. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in northern California ruled that the potential economic harm of the changes, which could force states to spend more on conservation, gave them grounds for the suit. [The Capital Press]

FREE MILK | In the city of Gary, Indiana, a new project called the “Mayor’s Milk Initiative” will distribute over 4,000 gallons of milk every week to residents in the metro area. Mayor Jerome Prince said that the initiative “will ease some of the burdens families are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.” [The Times of Northwest Indiana]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Route Fifty. Emma Coleman is the assistant editor at Route Fifty.

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