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Group Plans To Sue, Saying If Malls Are Allowed Open, Churches Should Be Too

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Minnesota law firm announced Monday that it plans to file a lawsuit to suspend the enforcement of the continued shutdown of religious services, arguing that the criteria allowing malls to reopen this week should be applied the same way to churches.

The Upper Midwest Law Center, a conservative public interest law firm, says it's filing a motion in U.S. District Court for a temporary restraining order to suspend enforcement of the order that bars services in churches, mosques and other places of worship.

Doug Seaton, the president of Upper Midwest Law Center, said in a statement that Minnesota's current stay-safe order violates the First Amendment rights of religious organizations by treating them like "second class citizens."

"It is clearly unconstitutional for the governor to allow people to go to the Mall of America but not Living Word Christian Center," he said.

At midnight, Minnesota's stay-at-home order expired and its stay-safe order began. Under the new order from Gov. Tim Walz, retail shops and malls can open but must operate at 50% capacity.

Additionally, people are allowed to gather in groups of 10 or less. While worship services are allowed under these guidelines, they are only allowed if fewer than 11 people are in a place of worship at a given time.

In the view of Upper Midwest Law Center, religious and secular organizations should be held to the same public health guidelines for similar situations. Going to a mall is not too different than attending church services, they argue.

While the Mall of America is technically allowed to open Monday, the Bloomington mall says it won't open its doors until June 1, so as to allow its tenants to adequately prepare for the new in-store shopping experience. Other malls in the Twin Cities do plan to open Monday.

The governor is slowly allowing Minnesota's economy to reopen after it was effectively shut down for weeks in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Next month, bars, restaurants, gyms, and salons will be allowed to reopen with restrictions and cleaning protocols in place.

Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus continues to spread in Minnesota. So far, more than 15,000 people have tested positive for the pathogen and 722 people have died.

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