Review: Federal judge blocks Kansas executive order limiting church gatherings to 10

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Review: Federal judge blocks Kansas executive order limiting church gatherings to 10

Review: Federal judge blocks Kansas executive order limiting church gatherings to 10

The ruling Saturday by the federal district court judge puts in place a Temporary Restraining Order against the state’s emergency rules limiting mass gatherings.

According to the court, because the state’s executive order (a) was not neutral toward religion, in that it continued to allow mass gatherings at essential businesses such as airports, production facilities and offices, but restricted them for religious gatherings (which also were deemed “essential”), (b) was not narrowly tailored to minimize intrusion upon religious practice; and (c) the state did not offer evidence that the activities occurring at religious institutions were any more dangerous than the other permitted mass gatherings, the executive order was discriminatory toward religious rights in violation of the First Amendment.

Until the case can get a full hearing, the court advises the two churches that they are to follow the plans they have submitted for safety precautions and social distancing to reduce the risk of spread of the virus:

Specifically, one church would adhere to the following measures:

  • Prior to and following the in-person service, the facility will be deep-cleaned;
  • Invitations will be directed to regular church attendees for this in-person service;
  • Individuals will be advised to continue to engage in “stay at home” protocols as
    directed by EO 20-16 in order to attend the service;
  • No church members are known to have had any contact with known COVID-19
    confirmed cases;
  • Attendees will be advised to perform temperature checks at home on all attendees
    prior to attending the service. Individuals that are ill or have fevers will not
    attend;
  • High-risk individuals will be advised not to attend the in-person service;
  • Attendees will be advised to bring their own PPE, including masks and gloves;
  • Attendees will be advised not to engage in hand shaking or other physical contact;
  • Hand sanitizer will be available for use throughout the facility;
  • The in-person service will be limited to 50 individuals in a space that has a capacity for
    300 individuals (a cross-shaped auditorium 50 feet by 74 feet at the center; 2,950 square
    feet total, allowing almost 57 square feet available to each attendee at maximum social
    distancing);
  • Co-habitating family units may sit closer together but otherwise the maximum
    social distancing possible will be used, however, at a minimum, the CDC recommended
    protocol will be observed with a minimum distance of at least 6 feet;
  • A single point of entry and single point of exit on opposite sides of the building
    will be used, establishing a one-way traffic pattern to ensure social distancing;
  • Ventilation will be increased as much as possible, opening windows and doors, as
    weather permits;
  • These procedures will be communicated to church members in advance of the
    service;
  • Church bulletin and offering plates will not be used during the service;
  • Attendees will be advised to wash their clothes following the service;
  • If Church leadership becomes aware of a clear, immediate, and imminent threat to the safety of the attendees or cannot follow the protocols listed above, the gathering will be immediately disbanded.

The other church would adhere to the following:

  • Splitting out pews and marking designated sitting areas to keep non-cohabitating congregants at least six feet apart before, during, and after the worship service;
  • Marking multiple entrances to encourage socially distanced foot traffic;
  • Propping doors open to prevent the need for congregants to touch doors while entering and exiting the church or sanctuary;
  • Suspending passing offering plates and bulletins;
  • Actively discouraging handshaking or other social touching;
  • Offering hand sanitizer throughout the building;
  • Providing face masks to offer to any interested persons.
|2020-04-21T08:59:02-04:00April 20th, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|Comments Off on Review: Federal judge blocks Kansas executive order limiting church gatherings to 10

About the Author: Ross Silverman

Ross Silverman
Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH, is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health and Professor of Public Health and Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. He is a member of the IU Centers on Health Policy and Bioethics. His research focuses on public health and medical law, policy, and ethics, and law's impact on health outcomes and vulnerable populations. He also serves as Associate Editor on Legal Epidemiology for Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. His most recent Covid-19 publications include: "Ensuring Uptake of Vaccines Against SARS-CoV-2" in the New England Journal of Medicine (with MM Mello & SB Omer), and "Covid-19: control measures must be equitable and inclusive" in BMJ (with ZD Berger, NG Evans & AL Phelan)

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