Kansas Governor Who Limited Church Attendance to 10 People Because of COVID-19 Says ‘Law On Our Side’

A federal court last week blocked Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order that limited church attendance to 10 people pending a hearing on May 2 about a lawsuit two churches filed against the governor.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the churches’ legal counsel, announced on Monday that the governor agreed to an extended temporary restraining order against her executive action. An excerpt (emphasis added):

“Singling out churches for special punishment while allowing others to have greater freedom is both illogical and unconstitutional. That’s why Gov. Kelly has agreed to an extension of the temporary restraining order against her in our case, filed on behalf of two rural churches. It is beyond shameful that the governor is claiming that her administration has resolved this legal challenge and that ‘under the agreement, the two churches agree to comply with safety protocols put in place by the court.’ As noted in the court’s order against her, the churches themselves created and proposed those safety protocols long ago—protocols that the governor refused to consider acceptable until the court compelled her to abide by them. The governor claims that she and her administration are ‘confident that we have the law on our side,’ but if this were true, the governor would not be consenting to an agreed motion that states that she ‘intends to issue a new executive order with less restrictive mass gathering provisions that will start May 4’ and abide by the court’s order against her for an additional 14 days, until May 16. We reserve the right to continue litigating this matter if Gov. Kelly does not follow through with appropriately amending her mass gathering ban. This is a victory for the churches whose First Amendment freedoms the governor has repeatedly disrespected throughout this ongoing litigation.”

According to ADF, Gov. Kelly tried to spin the decision to extend the order in her favor in her press release (PDF):

Today Governor Laura Kelly announced her administration had reached an agreement to resolve a challenge to actions she took to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the State of Kansas.

“My highest priority has been, and will continue to be, keeping Kansans safe during this pandemic,” Kelly said. “While I am confident that we have the law on our side, the agreement with these two churches will allow us to move forward and focus our efforts on mitigating the spread of the disease and working to restart the economy.”

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