Federal Judge Blocks Kansas’ Restriction on Church Gatherings of More Than Ten People

A federal judge ruled against Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s executive order that restricts church and religious gatherings to less than ten people on Saturday, recognizing that events such as church services are protected by the First Amendment even in times of emergency.

The federal court issued a a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of Kelly’s order, citing that the state of Kansas has declined to formally prohibit similar events occurring at secular facilities such as factories and airports. The Democratic Governor pushed back against the ruling, suggesting that she intends to appeal the restraining order in a higher court.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, however, lauded the ruling, stating that church services were beyond the formal prohibition of state authorities.

“Today’s judicial ruling is a much-needed reminder that the Constitution is not under a stay-home order and the Bill of Rights cannot be quarantined. The Constitution protects our liberties especially during times of crisis, when history reveals governments too quick to sacrifice rights of the few to calm fears of the many.”

There’s reason to believe that only an extremely small minority of American church congregations are even holding dangerous events in which the coronavirus could be spread. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear organized a major crackdown on churches planning services on Easter Sunday, but ultimately clarified that his office could only identify 17 churches holding events, many of whom were presumably only hosting small crowds, in the entire state of Kentucky.

The vast majority of American religious institutions are behaving responsibly of their own accord. Heavy-handed attempts by state governments to shut down the churches while institutions such as liquor stores and abortion clinics remain open do a disservice to the antiviral strategy of social distancing.