Kansas Court Asked To Restore Limits On Religious Gatherings

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to settle her fight with a powerful legislative committee over her ban on religious gatherings of more than 10 people in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly (D) on Tuesday moved to close a loophole in her previously announced social-distancing restrictions, extending the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people to include religious services and funerals.

The Republican-controlled Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC), composed of leaders from both parties, voted the next day along party lines to roll back the order.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) said that Kelly’s order was “sound public health advice,” but likely violated state Constitution’s religious freedom protections.

Constitutional Question

Kelly said Thursday that the more important constitutional question was whether the councilhad any independent authority to rescind a governor’s emergency order.

The state Constitution vests that authority in the full Legislature, not the council, she said in a written statement.

“The last thing I want right now is a legal battle,” Kelly said. “But Kansas lives are on the line, and I took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution. What the LCC did yesterday—in concert with the Kansas Attorney General—weakened and confused our emergency response efforts, putting every Kansan at risk. I cannot stand for that.”

The case is Kelly v. Legislative Coordinating Council, Kan., No. 122765, filed 4/9/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Brown in St. Louis at ChrisBrown@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com

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