ST. CLOUD -- In other states there have been reports of church leaders getting arrested or facing charges for allegedly continuing to hold services despite social distancing orders. So what is the law regarding worship services in our state? St. Cloud Health Director Matt O'Brien says the Minnesota Governor's order does not close places of worship but instead provides guidelines for them.

It emphasizes the importance of religious freedoms and encourages technology and other means of religious practice to protect the public health and to also acknowledge people's constitutional rights and freedom of religion.

O'Brien says in our community every faith-based organization that he's been in contact with has already altered their worship practices and many have closed their doors entirely, but ultimately it is up to them.

In the case of the Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud they have chosen to suspend all services since March 17th and will continue to do so until at least May 15th. A statement to WJON news says, "Bishop Kettler has felt that it is very important to comply both with the specific requirements and the spirit of the governor’s order to stay at home as much as possible. Bishop Kettler is currently considering a process and possible timeline for reopening churches in the diocese."

The Minnesota Council of Churches tells us:
We are not aware of any clergy who fear arrest if they hold worship, but we are also not aware of any clergy who plan to worship in person in the building during the order - they know doing so endangers their congregants.

The Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim leaders are in regular communication with MDH and actively discuss approaches to re-open safely.

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