WI religious leaders call for stronger statewide response to COVID-19

Religious leaders in Wisconsin are calling for a stronger statewide response to help protect residents amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 3:50 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Religious leaders in Wisconsin are calling for a stronger statewide COVID-19 response after they say the current, decentralized one has led to confusion and unsafe conditions for residents.

Thirty-four leaders in Christian churches across the states signed a letter addressed to GOP leaders Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday.

“We write to you with grave concerns for the health and well-being of the residents of our state, and appeal to you to take immediate action,” the letter reads.

Read the letter here.

In the letter, the Christian religious leaders argue that the lack of statewide health orders since May have endangered many of their parishioners. They argue that allowing county health departments and businesses to decide how to respond to COVID-19 has not been enough to keep residents safe.

“Pastors regularly hear of individuals who choose to wear masks and avoid large gatherings being screamed at, mocked, and threatened. Ministers have had to become experts in public health when medical information is constantly being updated. Clergy are under intense pressure to reopen church buildings, even when the infrastructure does not exist to do so safely,” according to the letter.

The leaders appear to be calling for a return of what the Safer-at-Home order required last Spring.

They are calling for the following: Enabling the Department of Health Services to respond quickly to emerging public health needs; allowing statewide guidelines for business operations, including the possibility of a “Stay at Home” order and local requirements that are more stringent; providing economic relief; mandating affordable medical treatment; and ensuring safe elections.

“We pray that you will examine your conscience and find a course of action which will allow you to work across political and other differences to meet these critical needs,” the letter addressed GOP leaders.

The leaders who signed the letter hail from the Wisconsin Council of Churches, which includes 34 bishops, executive leaders, and pastors from Lutheran, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal, Orthodox and other Christian traditions, according to a news release.

Tuesday’s letter comes after the Diocese of Madison challenged Dane County over what it believed to be religious discrimination in the local stay-at-home order. At the time, the Diocese accused the “Forward Dane” reopening plan’s 50-person cap during worship “is discriminatory and targets the Catholic Church for selective enforcement” compared to other venues and businesses holding mass gatherings.

However, it appears no leaders from Wisconsin’s Catholic churches signed Tuesday’s letter.

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