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PRESIDENT VS. GOVERNOR: Leaders clash over churches reopening plans

Church in Iowa reopens

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) - Just two days ago, Governor Tim Walz announced phase two of Minnesota's reopening plan, which did not included opening places of worship on June 1st.

Across the state, disappointed church leaders face a decision: to follow their governor's authority or defy his order and reopen anyway.

The discontent from Minnesota churches has forced many to call for the governor to reconsider his stance, including Senator Amy Klobuchar.

"I think he's well aware that we had our highest death rate ever in our state. You got to balance this and find a way to allow religious institutions to reopen so people can religiously practice but to do it slowly but surely," said the senator. "There was some unhappiness with the guidance he put out there. I know he's working with them to see where we can end up."

"We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner," said Governor Gavin Newsom. "We have guidelines that we anticipate completing and we anticipate doing just that."

Gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited despite many churches submitting reopening plans. They include things like only opening at a third of normal capacity. The president is giving them to go ahead to do, leaving many to ask if he actually has the authority.

"What the issue is called federalism. This is the constitutional division of power between the national government and the state governments," said David Schultz, University of Minnesota law professor.

It mean the governor's authority wins out in this situation.

However, Trump can order Attorney General William Bar and the Justice Department to file federal lawsuits against states that infringe on the First Amendment rights of their citizens.

Professor Schultz says it would be an unusual thing for the president to do.

"I view what Trump is doing here as a political move," Schultz said. "We know that his core political base are evangelicals."

"In a time like this people are looking for hope," said Pastor Shawn Barr of Grace Fellowship of Des Moines. "We believe that faith in God is huge."

Schultz says that governors could be found guilty of infringing constitutional rights, but says it would be a question of whether the federal government is allowed to sue the states on behalf of religious institutions or whether those institutions would have to sue themselves.

Many smaller congregations across the country have reopened despite governor's orders, but have done so using CDC guidelines, including social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer.

Alex Tejada

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