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Dane County changes church service health restrictions

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County public health officials amended an order Friday in response to a letter from lawyers for the Catholic Diocese of Madison.

The new order allows churches to hold services with attendance up to 25 percent of their total capacity. Dane County and the city of Madison announced the change in a joint press release.

Public Health Madison & Dane County said the new rule, titled Emergency Order #4, takes effect immediately.

We are making a modification to our existing Public Health order. Under Emergency Order #4, which takes effect...

Posted by Public Health Madison & Dane County on Friday, June 5, 2020

A previous order allowed churches to hold as many services as they wanted, but restricted attendance to 50 congregants.

Health officials said they intended the measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, lawyers representing the Catholic Diocese of Madison sent a 17-page letter to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

The letter claimed the 50-person maximum discriminated against churches. The "Forward Dane" plan, issued by public health officials May 18, allowed other public spaces to reopen at 25 percent capacity.

Parisi said he believed taxpayer and parishioner dollars should not go to a court battle, though he called the diocese's request "a legal gray area."

The letter argued that the current restrictions imposed in Madison and Dane County violates First Amendment rights and the state constitution.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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