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In a time of crisis, leaders must step up with selflessness and unwavering dedication. One does not have to be elected to be a leader.
Gov. Laura Kelly and her administration have been working around the clock to keep Kansans safe and healthy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of the threat to public health and the ensuing economic fallout have been unprecedented.
The unconscionable decision by a small number of church leaders to hold in-person Easter services this weekend has prompted a bizarre, confusing policy battle over a new executive order limiting church and funeral gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
While the limit on mass gatherings was already in effect, the governor in a live CNN interview Thursday said a few churches continued to have traditional services. That prompted her to double down on the ban.
In other words, poor leadership by a few members of the clergy caused a constitutional train wreck. The vast majority of our faith leaders already had temporarily closed on their own. They understand the peril facing their congregation and communities.
The governor said four of the positive case clusters in Kansas are tied to church gatherings, however. A parishioner doesn’t just put his own life at risk by attending a traditional service; he risks others at grocery stores, work and those on the front lines who are trying to keep the rest of us safe.
Kelly’s order to criminalize larger church gatherings caused an uproar. Derek Schmidt, the Kansas attorney general, told police officers not to enforce it. Five members of the GOP-led Legislative Coordinating Council — LCC Republican members Senate President Susan Wagle, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch — voted to override the order. The mess is headed to a Kansas Supreme Court showdown.
None of this needed to happen. A few irresponsible church chiefs have upended a thoughtful, proactive Kelly approach to the battle against COVID-19.
We do not agree with the LCC and AG actions to countermand the governor’s executive order. The Legislature has given emergency authority to every governor in recent history without concern for overriding an executive order. Last May, it gave the governor unchecked power regarding flooding, so why now are we battling during a pandemic?
The order by the AG to not enforce the law seems crazy to us, but this ugly, distasteful battle would never have been necessary had all church leaders put the health of their congregants first.
Faith is not about a physical presence. It is about what is in one’s heart. Worship Easter and Passover from the confines of your own dwelling. Keep yourself and others safe.