‘The bad news, which Kansas City must still remedy, is the continued unconstitutional treatment of churches … compared to other secular gatherings…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) After facing backlash, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, amended an order that would have forced churches to report the names of congregants who attend in-person services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under Mayor Quinton Lucas’s original “10-10-10” reopening plan, Kansas City businesses and religious institutions would have had to rerecord “lists” of customers or congregants who step foot on the business’s or church’s premises.
Lucas defended the requirement on Tuesday, but he later walked back his decision to enforce the rule after facing the threat of a legal challenge, according to Liberty Counsel.
Lucas claimed that the purpose of the recorded lists was to contact-trace those potentially infected with COVID-19 to prevent it from spreading.
“If you are a salon that keeps appointments, you should hang on to those,” Lucas said, according to KSHB.
“If you’re a restaurant that keeps reservations, when you open in a few weeks, hang on to those,” he continued. “And … if you’re an event, a religious institution that has people check in and sign in all the time, you should keep those.”
Now, however, this “contact tracing” is a “voluntary requirement,” Lucas said. If a church or business doesn’t feel comfortable recording that kind of information, the city will not pursue action against, he said.
“But at the same time, we think it’s going to be important because we’ll be living with COVID for some time and contact tracing and is one of the primary ways that we try to limit it,” Lucas added.
However, the amended executive order still imposes a 50-person limit on religious gatherings—a limit it does not impose on secular gatherings, Liberty Counsel noted.
“The requirement to record names and contact information of anyone who attends a religious gathering was a gross violation of the First Amendment,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
“Due to the overwhelming public outcry, the Kansas City Mayor reversed course and removed this unconstitutional provision,” he said. “The bad news which Kansas City must still remedy is the continued unconstitutional treatment of churches and houses of worship compared to other secular gatherings.”
Staver told the Todd Starnes Show earlier this week that the Justice Department is looking at Lucas’s order and will consider siding with Liberty Counsel if it decides to take Lucas to court.
“These attacks on churches cannot stand,” Staver added, according to Fox News. “We will fight these cases all the way to the Supreme Court if we must.”