Religious Liberty Gets a Win in Kansas
Religious Liberty Gets a Win in Kansas
Finally, a win for the Good Guys in these days of governmental overreach. KS Gov. Laura Kelly had restricted all church services through executive orders, even allowing for police to enforce them. But two churches sued the governor, and on Saturday a federal judge ruled in favor of their religious liberty.
Kelly’s executive order 20-18, which she issued five days before Easter, limited the number of people who could gather for worship to 10. That, of course, would be unworkable for churches that wished to hold in-person services.
Most Kansas churches were already abiding by health recommendations prior to Kelly’s edict, either by holding online or drive-up services. However, reporters in the Kansas City area found two churches that held services anyway. But unlike the pastor in Florida who held a massive Easter service, these clergymen maintained social distancing in their churches.
Nevertheless, Pastor Stephen Ormond and Pastor Aaron Harris, both Baptist ministers, sued Gov. Kelly. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, their attorneys argued that the executive order “carves out broad exemptions for 26 types of secular activities,” but singled out “churches and other religious activities.”
Tyson Langhofer of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an attorney who represented the churches, said:
“Our goal is just for the governor to revise the executive order to comply with the constitution and that means that they just treat religious activities the same as it’s treating the other secular activities.”
Kelly’s office offered the usual defense of protecting people and saving lives. Yada, yada, yada.
“As Governor Kelly has said, this is not about restricting religion, it is about keeping people safe and saving Kansans’ lives.”
“Indeed, a fair reading of EO 20-18 and EO 20-25 shows that they operate as a wholesale prohibition against assembling for religious services anywhere in the state by more than ten congregants. . . . these executive orders will likely impact the majority of churches and religious groups in Kansas.”
This victory for the two churches will extend until May 2, while Kelly’s stay-at-home order ends May 3. Meanwhile, Broomes will hold a hearing on Thursday regarding the lawsuit these churches filed against Kelly. So this thing isn’t over yet.
Gov. Kelly protested the ruling:
“This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis. This ruling was just a preliminary step. There is still a long way to go in this case, and we will continue to be proactive and err on the side of caution where Kansans’ health and safety is at stake.”
Yeah, well let’s look at this image from the Bing COVID-19 tracker. Below is a map of Kansas counties and their incidence of COVID-19 as of April 18. Notice something? Like all those counties in white?
Bing COVID-19 tracker/screenshot.
Those are counties with no cases of the coronavirus. The hotspots are near Kansas City and in Wichita. Yet Kelly thinks it’s appropriate to limit religious liberty in counties with little population and wide open spaces because . . . public health! And saving lives!
Laura Kelly may not be like the ridiculous Gretchen Whitmer, issuing restrictions on things like gardening. But she does like to rule with a heavy hand. For example, she was the first governor in the nation to order that all KS public schools would close for the remainder of the school year — on March 17.
Yet perhaps it’s not a surprise that Kelly does like her jackboots. Advising her is the equally authoritarian head of the KS Department of Health and Environment, Dr. Lee Norman. Norman surmised that a large church service on Easter would be like the Jonestown massacre.
Yes, he said that.
In a Facebook exchange with a Republican member of the Kansas House about restricting worship, Norman responded:
“Your opinion (as I’m looking at an 800-member congregational gathering tomorrow)? I think they are irresponsible. Like Jonestown Guyana, except in Kansas.”