Editor’s Note: Kansas lawmakers overturned Governor Laura Kelly’s Executive Order #20-14 (as printed below) on Wednesday in a 5-2 vote, stating that her orders violated the constitutional rights of Kansans. Governor Kelly said she is having her lawyers look into this as she notes the move is confusing for the citizens. See story on Page 1 for more information.)
As part of ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Tuesday Governor Laura Kelly rescinded Executive Order #20-14 and replaced it with Executive Order #20-18, which primarily brings our religious institutions and religious and non-religious funerals in line with the previous order that limited public gatherings to 10 or fewer people.
Although religious institutions and funerals previously were exempt from this 10-person limit, they now will need to comply with this rule, effective at 12:01 p.m. Wednesday.
“As Holy Week gets underway – and with Kansas rapidly approaching its projected ‘peak’ infection rate in the coming weeks – the risk for a spike in COVID-19 cases through church gatherings is especially dangerous,” Kelly said. “This was a difficult decision, and not one I was hoping to have to make.
“But I’ve said repeatedly during this crisis that we will adjust to circumstances as they develop to make sure we do everything we can to protect Kansans.”
E.O. #20-18 does not ban religious gatherings or funerals. Instead, both conducting and attending religious services and funerals remain designated “essential functions” and cannot be prohibited by local orders. However, gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals at a time and clergy, staff and attendees must adhere to appropriate safety protocols as outlined in the statewide stay-home order – including social distancing, hygiene and other efforts.
“I encourage all faith leaders to embrace alternative forms of worship that do not involve in-person congregation,” the Governor said. “Churches are livestreaming services and bringing their parishioners together over Facebook Live for Bible Study. They also are looking for alternative ways to observe their rituals.”
On April 3, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued new guidance to support churches in their transition to this method of worship, which can be viewed at http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/toolkit/Church_Sevices_Guidance.pdf.
The Governor said that in speaking with several faith leaders across Kansas, she was encouraged and deeply grateful that many religious institutions across the state have already recognized the danger of congregating in person and have proactively taken steps to celebrate in an alternative way.