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Wisconsin governor denies Republicans' request to allow in-person Easter and Passover services during coronavirus pandemic

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel logo Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 4/8/2020 Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Robin Vos holding a gun: Wisconsin Republican Majority Leader Jim Steinek (left), and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, right, and speak in support of a GOP "born alive" abortion bill in Madison. © Scott Bauer/Associated Press Wisconsin Republican Majority Leader Jim Steinek (left), and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, right, and speak in support of a GOP "born alive" abortion bill in Madison.

Assembly Republicans are calling on Gov. Tony Evers to allow in-person services for Easter and Passover amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

"It is more important than ever that we allow Wisconsinites to observe their individual faiths," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the other members of the Assembly GOP caucus wrote in a Friday letter to Evers. "To that end, we ask that you work with Wisconsin churches and temples to allow them to hold Easter or Passover services, even if it's outside."

Evers declined the request.

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"As a state and as a nation, we are heading into the worst of this public health crisis," Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said. "The governor understands that for many Wisconsinites their faith is a source of comfort, especially in these difficult times, but in order to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsinites he will not be rolling back the provisions of the Safer at Home order."

Baldauff added, "We continue to call on Republicans in the legislature to do their part to ensure public health and safety."

The Republicans' request came one day before Republicans in the Assembly and Senate stalled Evers' move to push back Tuesday's election due to the coronavirus pandemic ravaging countries around the world. On Saturday, they quickly adjourned a special legislative session about the matter.

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During Saturday's proceedings, the state Assembly and state Senate each gaveled in and out within seconds and recessed until Monday.

Easter is Sunday, April 12, while Passover begins April 8 and ends April 16.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has already canceled all in-person Holy Week and Easter Masses over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Archbishop Jerome Listecki will celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday Masses at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and will livestream the services. A Spanish-language Easter Mass will also be livestreamed. 

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who said that he watched a Palm Sunday service online, said religious gatherings in other states have been linked to large coronavirus outbreaks.

"This disease does not have a religious exemption," Barrett said. "As much as I would love this disease to have a religious exemption, a family exemption, a voting exemption, it does not. And it's not just the people who would attend these services, but it would be the people that they would infect."

Barrett added, "It is disappointing that somehow we have so many people in state government right now who want to make believe that we're exempt from this thing. It's just ... it's mind-boggling."

Passover is traditionally observed at home, although there can be events at synagogues. 

Wisconsin's election comes as the U.S. surgeon general and others have called on people to stay home and urged governors who haven't yet to issue stay-at-home orders.

"The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, it's going to be our 9/11 moment, it's going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives. And we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday during an interview on "Meet the Press."

Adams added, "We want everyone to understand you've got to be Rosie the Riveter, you've got to do your part."

Governors in some other states have designated houses of worship as providing essential services, and as a result exempt from stay-at-home orders.

President Donald Trump previously suggested that the country could loosen social distancing guidelines by Easter amid the coronavirus pandemic but has since reversed course.

Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or mary.spicuzza@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin governor denies Republicans' request to allow in-person Easter and Passover services during coronavirus pandemic

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