A federal judge stepped in Saturday to block an order by the Democrat governor of Kansas limiting in-person religious services to 10 people during the ongoing COVID-19 shutdown.
“The ruling from U.S. District Judge John Broomes in Wichita prevents the enforcement of an order issued by Gov. Laura Kelly if pastors and congregations observe social distancing,” according to Associated Press. “The judge’s decision will remain in effect until May 2; he has a hearing scheduled Thursday in a lawsuit filed against Kelly by two churches and their pastors.”
Broomes claimed in his ruling that Kelly’s order unfairly deemed church gatherings less essential than other activities. The federal judge was appointed by President Donald J. Trump in 2017.
“Churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment,” Broomes wrote in his order.
Kelly refuted that claim in a defiant statement, and said that she was not trying disaffect religious people.
“This is not about religion,” she said. “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.”
But even controversial Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat, allowed more than 10 people to congregate for worship. That state, which has been engulfed in protests demanding that the Governor’s “stay-at-home” order be lifted for the past week, allowed 50 people to congregate at churches.
Several other states, including Mississippi and Kentucky, have clashed with authorities over social distancing guidelines that have stopped them from congregating.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a pro-Christian non-profit, has played a large role in helping churches across the country push back against orders demanding that they stop worshipping.
The clashes sparked widespread debate over First Amendment rights during the fallout in the wake of the Corona scare.
Kansas only has 1790 infections and 86 deaths from COVID-19, despite having a population of almost three million.