Judge Says Houses Of Worship In Kansas Can Remain Open During COVID-19 Crisis

(FamilyRetirementClub.Com)- Religious institutions in Kansas can continue holding services and other religious gatherings of more than 10 people as long as social distancing measures are maintained.
That was the decision of U.S. District Judge John Broomes, who blocked an executive order of governor Laura Kelly, who banned such gatherings. Broomes, out of Wichita, even went as far as criticizing the executive order as targeting religious institutions unfairly.
In his ruling, he wrote:
“Churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment.”
Despite the decision from Broomes and criticism from the Republican-led legislature in Kansas, the Democrat Kelly defended her executive order, saying:
“This is not about religion. This is about a public-health crisis.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which aided in bringing this case to court, disagreed. Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for the group, said:
“Public safety is important, but so is following the Constitution. We can prioritize the health and safety of ourselves and our neighbors without harming churches and people of faith.”
Lawmakers in Kansas first tried to revoke Kelly’s executive order earlier this month, but the governor went to the state Supreme Court to contest that decision. The Supreme Court allowed the order to stand on technical grounds, without ruling specifically on whether the order violated religious freedom.
That’s when the Alliance Defending Freedom helped take the case to the U.S. District Court, which made the ruling to block Kelly’s executive order.
Similar moves have been happening throughout the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, a pastor in Florida was arrested for holding church services despite local restrictions. He said he was a victim of “a tyrannical government.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis subsequently labeled religious services as “essential activities,” barring local authorities from banning them. When he made the announcement, he said:
“I don’t think the government has the authority to close a church. I’m certainly not going to do that. In Easter season, people are going to want to have access to religious services.”
The same was done in Texas, as Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order right before Easter that designated all religious services as “essential” and allowing the houses or worship to make their own decisions on how to hold services. Abbott, though, did urge the religious institutions to try to continue offering services remotely, if possible.
As states are declining to bar religious services, though, some religions themselves are temporarily halting in-person services, moving instead to online services and other resources. Both the leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals and Christianity Today released a statement this month, saying:
“This decision [to close houses of worship] comes out of sacrificial love, not from habitual or casual disregard for worship. We will not be passing the peace with hugs, but rather with texts and phone calls. Are these modes inferior? Yes. Will they be acceptable to the Lord? We also believe, yes.”