Junction City church holds first service after Fed. judge allows gatherings

Published: Apr. 19, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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The federal lawsuit filed Thursday against Governor Laura Kelly by Calvary Baptist Church of Junction City and First Baptist Church of Dodge City allows the two churches to have in-person services Sunday morning.

However, the two churches are still required to comply with protocols.

Tyson Langhofer with Alliance for Defending Freedom who is behind the lawsuit says churches should not be the singled out.

"Kansas state policy singles out churches for special punishment while allowing others to have greater freedom, that's both illogical and unconstitutional," said Tyson Langhofer.

"The governor can not treat religious groups worse than everybody else, without this temporary restraining order, the state of Kansas is keeping churches from safely gathering. The governors order punishes churches who are looking for a safe, responsible way to gather for worship," Langhofer explained.

The court ruling states that Calvary Baptist Church of Junction City and First Baptist Church of Dodge City must adhere to social distancing and public health protocols in order for their services to continue.

One visitor at Calvary Baptist Church says he felt safe attending service on Sunday.

"They were very careful, there was an elder at the door who provided basically a briefing," Scott Prince said. "He was only allowing people in one at a time, or couples in at one time. Keeping distance, they had hand sanitizer there."

"The people sat at very large distances in the pews separated from one another. There were some people wearing masks, to me I felt totally safe," Prince added.

Scott Prince agrees that Governor Laura Kelly's executive order is unconstitutional.

"Absolutely, I think it's horrible that especially over the most holy weekend for people of Faith, Easter to not be able to worship. It seems to be singling out people of Faith and I think that's a mistake. I think our elected leaders ought to be very careful about not transgressing," Prince explained.

He says religious groups should not be treated differently.

"In this case I understand that everybody is concerned about this virus and concerned about public safety, but it doesn't line up again, their not congruent-and to single out churches as places ought to be close, there's clearly a discriminatory aspect to this," Prince emphasized.

But, the ruling only applies to the two churches that filed the lawsuit.

"The ultimate ruling hopefully will have a broader effect on all churches, but we have not be in contact with other churches at this point regarding joining litigation," Langhofer added.

The preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled on Thursday.