Last Sunday morning I sat through yet another feeble attempt to substitute online religious observance for the usual in-person version. My thought was that if churches in Minnesota want to show how to kowtow to an overreaching government, they’re doing a pretty good job of it.
Few people would disagree that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. When Gov. Tim Walz issued his initial lockdown orders, there was little protest, because most people recognized the need to cooperate in such a situation. We are, however, long past that point. New and overwhelming evidence is now available. While our state locked down, other states did not, and they have done as well or better than Minnesota. Whole countries have avoided lockdowns without serious trouble. Even the World Health Organization now recognizes the viability of that approach.
Gov. Walz’s response to the coronavirus has been to label some businesses as essential and some non-essential. While that method has been completely unworkable, it has at least shown us that his lockdown is without the evidentiary support that should be required of Draconian measures. That people have been congregating at Walmarts, Home Depots, and grocery stores all through the crisis, without any major problems, is incontrovertible.
There is absolutely no reason, as a result, why Gov. Walz should not immediately take himself out of the way, especially where he is dealing with people who wish to exercise their specifically reserved Constitutional right to assemble for religious purposes. Instead, the governor has doubled down and repeated his now-discredited approach, with only a slight adjustment.
It is time, as a result, for citizens to take matters out of his hands.
Let me give some advice to our churches. Governors, particularly liberal ones, are good at getting into things, but not so good at getting out of them. Constitutional rights, if not asserted with whatever steps are necessary, will be lost. Whether churches can safely meet is no longer disputable. There is no argument that churches are at least as able as grocery stores to put into place necessary protections. The leaders of our Minnesota churches should, in concert, announce that in-person services will resume immediately, and Gov. Walz should accept their judgment.
I’m not in the least suggesting that the citizens of Minnesota participate in civil disobedience. It is the governor, by prolonging restrictions that have been shown to be unwise, ineffective, and unnecessary, who is now guilty of civil disobedience. It is time that he be brought to a halt.
This is a Constitutional moment, comparable, in its own way, to 1776. We have loaned our freedom to Gov. Walz in order to cooperatively face an enemy. It is now time to take that freedom back. Let the people say, “Thank you, Governor. We’ll take it from here.”
Dale Blanshan of Rochester, Minnesota, is a retired minister, attorney, and historian.