Lawmakers Overturn Religious Worship Size Limits in Kansas

Joe Denoyer - April 8, 2020 5:26 pm

Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order restricting the size of religious gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak has been overturned after the state’s top prosecutor said it likely violates the state constitution.

The Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 Wednesday to undo the order that limited in-person religious services and funerals to 10 people. The move came after Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said that while the order was “sound public-health advice that Kansans should follow,” he was discouraging law enforcement agencies and prosecutors statewide from attempting to enforce the requirements.

With Easter approaching, Kelly, a Democrat, issued the order Tuesday because of three outbreaks that had been connected to religious gatherings. Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s head, said 165 had been sickened in those outbreaks.

“In our view, Kansas statute and the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights each forbid the governor from criminalizing participation in worship gatherings by executive order,” wrote Schmidt, adding that Kansas statutory and constitutional law provide substantially more protection for religious freedoms than does federal law.

Statewide, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 grew Wednesday to 1,046, up from 900 Tuesday, with 38 deaths.

 

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