Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is suing Republican lawmakers in her state Thursday for repealing Kelly’s executive order seeking to place limits on church gatherings ahead of the Easter holiday.
Kelly is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to reinstate her order signed on Tuesday that cap religious gatherings, including funerals, at 10 people while the Wuhan coronavirus spreads across the state. The state’s majority-Republican, seven-person Legislative Coordinating Council revoked the order on Wednesday.
“This is purely a political move, one that I find incredibly unfortunate,” Kelly told the Washington Post. The Kansas governor said the authority to check her emergency powers lied with the state’s legislature as opposed to the state’s legislative council.
As of this writing, there have been about 1,100 confirmed cases of the novel Wuhan coronavirus reported in the state with 263 hospitalizations, according to the Kansas Department of Health.
Immediately upon the governor signing strict limits on state citizen’s freedom to worship, Kansas Republicans began to push back. The state’s Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt urged law enforcement to ignore the governor’s directive on Wednesday on constitutional grounds.
The Kansas Constitution, Schmidt told state police, “forbid[s] the governor from criminalizing participation in worship gatherings by executive order.”
Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman told the Washington Post that while he believed the governor’s order was good public policy, it was simply unconstitutional.
“We’re not willing to have someone’s religious beliefs threatened,” Rychman told the Post. “I don’t think they should be attending group services during this pandemic, but I’m also not willing to have them go to jail or doing so.”
Other states have imposed more extreme restrictions on First Amendment freedoms under the guise of public safety. In Indiana, the state’s Republican Governor Eric Holcomb unilaterally waived citizen’s rights on Good Friday to gather and worship by ordering churches closed on one of the most significant holiday weekends of the year, if not the most important.