I am disturbed by the number of businesses and organizations that are urging outright defiance of the governor’s pandemic orders — and by the “outrage” expressed in many letters printed here. Suddenly, everyone is an epidemiologist, supremely confident in their own logic — it’s a no-brainer that churches are the same as big-box retail; restaurants are no different from grocery stores; masks are a pointless nuisance. As if no one in charge had ever thought of these points, and any fool can see what the right response should be.
Between the average person in Minnesota (including me), and trained epidemiologists and government officials who must review all the facts and policy options and make hard decisions about the best way to serve all the cantankerous factions that make up “the public,” I will choose the latter. And the businesses (and churches) hurling invective at the governor should think twice about that. Their customers (and members) hold varying opinions on this topic. I bet I’m not the only one keeping track of the prominent voices of rebellion — to be sure I never patronize them again when this sorry episode comes to an end.
Stephen J. Bubul, Minneapolis
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By deciding to defy state public health orders (“Some churches say they’ll defy order,” May 21) the Catholic Church in Minnesota once again places its own interests above civic duties and the welfare of the larger community. As it still struggles to recover from myriad clergy abuse scandals and a long history of coverups that placed the interests of priests and church hierarchy above the welfare of vulnerable youth and parishioners, one would think that today the church would be more committed to protecting the health of the community and helping to shield vulnerable populations like the elderly from the spread of COVID-19. (“What you do to the least of us, you do to me.”)
Instead, the church is aligning itself with the armed bullies protesting outside the governor’s residence. How Christian is that?
Michael Griffin, St. Paul
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The Star Tribune editorial supporting the governor’s intention to keep all churches closed for the foreseeable future (probably until August) cites the Arkansas church that had a large outbreak in early March (“Caution key on worship services,” May 21). What you and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to note was that the incident occurred before social distancing and other preventive measures were being observed there or almost anywhere in the country. That is nothing like what would happen if churches were allowed to reopen these days.
Stan Weese, Brooklyn Park
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I may have missed it, but the argument I have not found on the topic of opening the houses of worship is the amount of time worshipers will spend in their church, 10 at a time or more. The comparisons between shoppers at Walmart or other businesses and churches is how much time a person spends in a place. Shoppers move around, separating in a step or two, probably spending less than 20 minutes in the entire store. In a church service, worshipers (who knows how many) sit in one place for double or more the time a shopper does. The virus is said to spread by proximity and duration. Will grandma or grandpa (no doubt untested for the virus) sit close together for a long time or move around like a shopper? Maybe it’s time to dial in that thought.
Wanda C. Jacobsen, St. Joseph, Minn.
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It’s been argued that churches should open up because people are allowed to go grocery shopping. Churches feel they are just as essential. According to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center, 38% of Minnesotans report attending church on a regular basis. That leaves 62% of Minnesotans who don’t seem to consider it an essential activity. (The Star Tribune even did a series of articles about this back in 2018.) Going to the grocery store is not without risk, but it’s definitely essential. I wasn’t able to find a study to back this next one up, but my gut tells me that 100% of Minnesotans need to eat food on a regular basis. Perhaps 38% of us can stay home and worship online (or pray alone in our homes as the early Christians did to avoid getting killed) to help keep the majority of us as safe as possible. Thinking more about others than ourselves feels like the right thing to do.
Cynthia Smith, Oakdale
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Only 10 mass-goers in the Cathedral nave?! Utter nonsense.
Having been a math teacher in my former life, I can say the Rev. John Ubel’s requested solution from last week is spot on (“We safely hold more than 10,” Readers Write, May 15). Here’s an estimated arithmetical solution to how many can safely attend Cathedral services: Divide the entire square footage of the pews by the square footage of each person’s safety circle. To find the area of that circle, take pi times the radius squared. Given a 6-foot safety radius, that gives roughly 100 square feet per person. Not knowing exactly the pew square footage, I’ll use 150 feet by 150 feet as an approximation, or 22,500 square feet. Divide by our safety space and that yields about 225 prayerful people in the Cathedral. Yes, it’s a far cry from the old 2,000 attendees, but it’s far, far, far better than 10.
Yes, we Minnesotans have a well-meaning governor and competent staff, but one size does not fit all, whether it’s masks, circles or churches. Ten prayerful attendees in the Cathedral is more than capricious, it is ludicrous. Let’s ask those legislative presbyopists to come up with a wiser ruling.
Yes, masks and distances do matter, but prayerful supplications may matter too. We need all the help we can get.
Cheers and press prayerfully on.
Tom King, West St. Paul
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I never thought I would see the day when the governor of Minnesota would be more concerned about the health and safety of Minnesotans than the archbishop. As a retired ELCA pastor, I realize that many members of our churches are highly at risk for suffering from COVID-19. I also know that they are precisely the people who will most likely feel duty-bound to attend in-person worship services when they are available. Many congregations are offering innovative worship experiences within the current guidelines.
I implore religious leaders to patiently await the opportunity for large religious gatherings.
Tom Carlson, Minneapolis
City Council ban defies logic
With the pandemic and skyrocketing unemployment, victory gardens are coming back with gardeners being encouraged to grow extra food. That makes Falcon Heights City Council’s actions (“How does his garden grow? It doesn’t,” May 21) all the more bewildering. Why would it cite Quentin Nguyen for wanting to put a community garden in his front yard?
If Falcon Heights truly wants to “study” front-yard vegetable gardens, this is a great opportunity for the city to do it. Mr. Nguyen and his partners can show the City Council what a vegetable garden can add to the neighborhood. Why not invite others to try front yard vegetable gardens, too?
Kay Sargent, White Bear Township
Why reject lifesaving gear?
I once worked in a chemical plant in Louisiana. For some reason the workers did not want to wear hard hats as required by the company. “It’s a chemical plant, not a construction zone,” some complained. There was a big meeting where the pros and cons were discussed. The defining moment came when one worker rose to explain his objection: “I’ve been working here for 17 years and a hard hat has only saved my life once.”
I think about that guy when I hear people complain about wearing masks.
Rolf bolstad, Minneapolis
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