A federal judge blocked Kansas from limiting attendance at religious services during the coronavirus pandemic Saturday.
Wichita U.S. District Judge John Broomes blocked an order from Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, limiting attendance at religious services to 10 people or fewer.
Broomes’ ruling prevents Kelly’s enforcement of the order as long as pastors and congregations observe social distancing, Politico reports. The decision will remain in effect until May 2.
“Churches and religious activities appear to have been singled out among essential functions for stricter treatment,” the judge wrote in his order.
“This is not about religion,” the Kansas governor said in a statement following the decision. “This is about a public health crisis.”
The judge’s order still requires religious services to abide by social distancing recommendations, such as requiring people to stay 6 feet apart. Broomes also has a hearing scheduled for Thursday regarding a lawsuit filed by two churches and their pastors against Kelly, Politico reports.
News of Broomes’ ruling comes after Attorney General William Barr released a statement on religious practices and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic saying that “even in times of emergency,” federal law prohibits religious discrimination.
“Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity,” Barr said.