A federal judge on Saturday blocked Kansas governor Laura Kelly’s executive order banning religious gatherings of over ten people, allowing churches and other institutions to congregate as long as worshippers maintain social distancing.
U.S. District Judge John Broomes in Wichita criticized Kelly’s executive order as unfairly targeting religious institutions.
“Churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment,” Broomes wrote in his ruling. Kelly, a Democrat who has drawn criticism from Kansas’s Republican-held state legislature, defended the executive order.
“This is not about religion. This is about a public-health crisis,” Kelly said in reaction to Broomes’s ruling.
“Public safety is important, but so is following the Constitution,” commented Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped bring the case to court. “We can prioritize the health of safety of ourselves and our neighbors without harming churches and people of faith.”
Republican state lawmakers had attempted to revoke Kelly’s order earlier in April, but the governor then contested the decision before Kansas’s Supreme Court. The Court let Kelly’s order stand on technical grounds, without ruling on whether it violated religious freedom.