Kansas GOP reverses governor on religious services during pandemic

To protect congregations during a pandemic does not make one anti-religion; opening the door to services during a pandemic does not make one pro-religion.
Image: Easter morning with the sun behind a church steepl cross.
A wood cross on an old church steeple backlighted by a rising sun.wwing / Getty Images

Like every other state, Kansas is facing an escalating coronavirus crisis of its own, with an escalating number of infections and fatalities. According to public health officials, several of Kansas' infection clusters came from local religious gatherings.

With this in mind, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) issued an executive order limiting worship gatherings to 10 people -- which itself seemed overly permissive given the circumstances of the pandemic. Nevertheless, as NBC News reported, Kansas Republicans wasted little time in overturning the policy.

The state's Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday to undo the order. The vote came just hours after Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said the order likely violate the state constitution and discouraged law enforcement from enforcing restrictions.

The Democratic governor called the decision "shockingly irresponsible," which seemed more than fair. She added, "There are real life consequences to the partisan games Republicans played today."

State Senate President Susan Wagle (R), who also happens to be a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, was asked about concerns that church gatherings would put people in danger. Wagle replied that she believes most people are aware of the risk, "but don't tell us we can't practice our religious freedoms."

In case this isn't already obvious, it's worth noting that trying to protect congregations during a pandemic does not make someone anti-religion, just as opening the door to dangerous services during a pandemic does not make someone pro-religion.

In fairness, as a Wichita Eagle report noted, most of Kansas' houses of worship have already acted responsibly and offered parishioners a chance to attend services online.

But some Kansas churches are still planning in-person Easter services this weekend, despite the obvious public-health hazards, and state Republican officials appear eager to "help" them.