LAWRENCE, KS—Two Kansas churches are appealing to a higher power and taking action after a Kansas Supreme Court prohibited religious services offered to more than 10 people.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by Dodge City’s First Baptist Church and Junction City’s Calvary Baptist Church.
Kansas City Churches Believe the State Has No Compelling Reason to Prohibit Services
They allege that “the State does not have a compelling reason for prohibiting church services where congregants can otherwise practice adequate social distancing protocol.”
During a news conference, the Kansas Governor Laura Kelly responded to the news of the lawsuits.
“I am aware there have been one or two lawsuits. I would just continue to reiterate that executive order had nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with protecting the health of Kansans,” she said.
However, pastors and their church congregations disagree with Kelly. They say that the orders violate their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, right to assemble, free exercise of religion, and due process.
Other Pastors Agee With the Lawsuit Against Church Restrictions
Scott Hanks, the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church says he believes the pastors involved have a strong case.
“Honestly, I don’t see how a governor is going to have a leg to stand on,” he said in an interview with KCTV5 News.
Although Hanks isn’t involved in the lawsuit, he said he agrees with it. Earlier this week he said he’d be willing to risk being arrested so that he could continue having church services.
“I’m not trying to fight the governor,” said Hanks. “I just don’t want her to tell us we can’t have church.”
Hanks says he plans to continue with his service plans and was forced to take his church services outside because of local law enforcement following the governor’s order.
“If they want to put me in jail and charge those fines, I’d do that in a heartbeat,” said Hank. “But I wasn’t willing to do that to the church family because it wasn’t fair to them.”
Church Rents a Tent For Outdoor Services Despite 10 Person Social Distancing Restriction
Hanks said that for each service they’ll set up a tent that had been rented for that reason.
“I think the bigger burden of it all is being outside for church when it’s this cool,” he said. “I feel like it’s a bible thing. Not just a constitutional thing. So that’s where I don’t mind stepping over the limit because I really feel in my heart that God wants to have church.”
Hank says that only families will be allowed to be seated together and that otherwise, the church-goers will have to enforce social distancing by using spaced-out seating under the tent.
The stay-at-home order is expected to remain in effect until May 3.