Federal Judge Blocks Kansas Limits on Church Gatherings
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked Kansas from limiting attendance at in-person religious worship services or activities to 10 or fewer congregation members to check the spread of the coronavirus. The decision Saturday from U.S. District Judge John Broomes in Wichita signaled that he believes there’s a good chance the policy violates religious freedom and free speech rights. Broomes' ruling prevents the enforcement of an order issued by Governor Laura Kelly on April 7th. His decision will remain in effect until May 2nd. He has a hearing set for Thursday in a lawsuit filed against Kelly by two churches and their pastors. (Read more here.)
Kansas Governor Kelly Responds to Ruling
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a statement in response to the federal judge's ruling against her executive order limiting the size of religious gatherings. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic,” Kelly said. “We all want to resume our normal lives as soon as possible, but for now the data and science tell us there’s still a serious threat from COVID-19 – and when we gather in large groups, the virus spreads. My executive order is about saving Kansans’ lives and slowing the spread of the virus to keep our neighbors, our families and our loved ones safe,” Kelly said. “During public health emergencies, we must take proactive measures to save lives. Kansas has had six deaths and more than 80 cases of COVID-19 that have originated from religious gatherings." The governor continued, “This is not about religion. This is about a public health crisis."
Kansas Attorney General Reacts to Church Ruling
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the "judicial ruling is a much-needed reminder that the Constitution is not under a stay-home order and the Bill of Rights cannot be quarantined. The Constitution protects our liberties especially during times of crisis, when history reveals governments too quick to sacrifice rights of the few to calm fears of the many. As I have consistently counseled, the governor of Kansas must not discriminate against religious gatherings by threatening worshipers with arrest or imprisonment while allowing similar secular gatherings to proceed." Schmidt continued, "Let me be clear: My own view remains that churches, synagogues, temples and mosques should cancel all in-person services and instead worship remotely at this time. I strongly urge all Kansas religious leaders to do so. But as a government official, I may not impose that preference selectively on Kansans of faith but not others. Neither may Governor Kelly. I call on the governor to accept the court’s decision... and end this unnecessary legal fight that is costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in attorney fees without demonstrable public health benefit."
Kansas COVID-19 Cases Edge Near 1,900 with 92 Deaths; Ford County Becoming Fast-Growing Hot Spot
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - As of 11 am Sunday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 1,849 cases of COVID-19, including 92 deaths. Cases have been reported in 68 Kansas counties. The hardest hit counties are in the Kansas City and Wichita areas, places with the highest population concentrations. However, Ford County, in the rural southwest is becoming one of the fastes growing hotspots for COVID-19 cases. Earlier this week, Ford County had fewer than 20 cases. It now has 127 cases. (Get the latest updates from KDHE here.)
Top Five Kansas Counties for COVID-19 Cases
Wyandotte County 417
Johnson County 372
Sedgwick County 234
Leavenworth County 128
Ford County 127
- KPR's Coronavirus Information and Resources Guide
- What Kansans Need to Know About COVID-19 & Coronavirus, from the Kansas News Service
Leawood Couple Settles Lawsuit in Bungled Pot Raid
LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County couple whose home was raided by a police tactical team in a bungled 2012 search for marijuana has settled a federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s deputies who led the operation. KCUR-FM reported that the amount of the settlement with Robert and Adlynn Harte is unknown because the settlement document has been sealed. But U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum ruled he would unseal it once the parties have redacted portions about the Hartes’ children. Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies raided their home in April 2012, eight months after Robert Harte and his two young children bought supplies for a tomato-growing project.
KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.