Two Kansas churches were granted a temporary retraining order against Governor Laura Kelly's order limiting the number of people at religious services to 10 or fewer.
“We are in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “We all want to resume our normal lives as soon as possible, but for now the data and science tell us there’s still a serious threat from COVID-19 – and when we gather in large groups, the virus spreads.
“My executive order is about saving Kansans’ lives and slowing the spread of the virus to keep our neighbors, our families and our loved ones safe,” Kelly said. “During public health emergencies, we must take proactive measures to save lives."
Kansas has had six deaths and more than 80 cases of COVID-19 that have originated from religious gatherings. The court’s temporary order noted that, given the gravity of the issues involved, the order only applies to the two plaintiffs to the lawsuit. All other religious gatherings must continue to adhere to the requirements of Executive Order 20-25 and limit gatherings to 10 or fewer attendees.
Kansas is not alone in restricting gatherings, including religious gatherings. A majority of states and hundreds of local governments across the country have imposed similar temporary restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There have been at least eight other legal challenges like this one, and so far none of them have ruled against a mass gathering restriction like ours. Courts across the country have recognized that during this pandemic emergency the law allows governments to prioritize proper public health and safety,” Kelly said.
“This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis,” Kelly said. “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.”
Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said nothing has changed related to the need to practice social distancing and avoid mass gatherings.
“As Kansans, we have a responsibility to keep our neighbors, friends and family safe. Please do not gather in groups larger than 10 people,” Norman said. “As we see ramped-up testing across the state, we still must exercise extreme caution in our daily activities. It bears repeating: stay safe, stay home, save lives.”