Public Health

Kansas Supreme Court upholds order limiting church services to 10 people or less

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On Saturday, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s order limiting church services to 10 people or less.

The court ruled that a GOP-led legislative coordinating council didn’t have the authority to rescind the order, report the Washington Post, the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle. How Appealing links to the opinion.

The court ruled after holding arguments Saturday using Zoom.

Kelly acted under a state law giving the governor the power to declare a state of disaster emergency. The law allows the governor to issue orders and proclamations during the disaster emergency, but the order can be revoked by concurrent resolution of the legislature.

Under the law, the legislative council doesn’t have the power to act for the legislature when it isn’t in session, except in a specific case where the governor applies to a state finance council to extend the disaster emergency beyond the 15-day limit, the state supreme court ruled.

At least two churches held Easter services on Sunday despite the decision upholding Kelly’s order, the Kansas City Star reports.

The Rev. Scott Hanks is the pastor of the Heritage Baptist Church in Lawrence, one of the churches that held services. He told the Lawrence Journal-World that parishioners practiced social distancing.

“God wants us to have church,” Hanks said. “I can go into a Walmart, a liquor store or a grocery store filled with people, but I can’t go into a church and stay six foot apart from people?”

Jenn Hethcoat, a spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, told the Kansas City Star that deputies were aware that church services were held at the Lawrence church, but deputies could not enforce the governor’s order until it is published by the secretary of state.

Junction City Police Chief John Lamb told the Kansas City Star that a deputy stopped by the other church, the Calvary Baptist Church in Junction City. Lamb said the lieutenant reported fewer than 10 people were there; the pastor told the newspaper that about 21 people attended services.

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