New reopening guidelines in Kansas City that require churches to keeps “lists” of attendees have worried advocates of religious freedoms in the area, according to a report from Metro Voice.
Mayor Quinton Lucas enacted the policy where houses of worship receive the same treatment as “non-essential” businesses when it comes to keeping information of those who attend a service or anyone who enters the building.
“Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined Nazi-like measures designed to surveil, track and spy upon what was once a free American people,” declared Liberty Council, founder and Chairman Matt Staver. “That is exactly what Kansas City’s misguided government officials are now demanding.”
The new policy declares “In-person religious gatherings (including weddings and funerals) may resume, subject to the 10/10/10 rule (if held inside) or limited to 50 people outside, provided social distancing precautions are followed and event organizers maintain records of all attendees.”
The 10/10/10 rule refers to the 10 people or 10 percent of the allowable number of people detailed in the fire code. However, it only applies to individuals who stay in the building for more than 10 minutes. In reality, the record keeping is what worries people. The new rule mandates that all churches to “record the names, contact information, and approximate entry/exit time of all customers who are on premises for more than 10 minutes.” Churches, synagogues, and mosques along with businesses are covered under these regulations. Medical facilities and grocery stores are the only establishments that are exempt.
Rich Bott, President of Bott Radio Network, argues that this new regulation is a clear violation of First Amendment protections.
“This is outrageous on the part of the KC municipal government officials. They are treating churches the same as businesses for COVID contact tracing purposes,” Bott said to the Metro Voice. “This is a massive overreach violating the sanctity of churches and the privacy of their attendees. This must not go unchallenged.”
In a recent letter to supporters, Liberty Council’s Staver declared that Kansas City’s actions constitute “attacks” on basic civil liberties.
“These attacks on our churches cannot stand. The backbone of our country relies on our constitutionally guaranteed ability to worship and serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Staver declared.
According to Liberty Council, churches are also compelled to hand over their “membership lists,” something the city government denies. Morgan Said, director of communications for Mayor Lucas, said that houses of worship must keep a list. That said, the possession and control of the information is still in their hands unless a health emergency comes about.
“We are not asking that churches provide a list immediately to the city,” Said highlighted. “Churches keep the list and only if a member tests positive, and that member attended a church function, would the church provide a list to the city.”
According to Said, the church or other religious institution only have to keep records for just 30 days, “Unless, God forbid, someone tests positive, the church can destroy the list.”
“Churches must abide by the 10/10/10 rule just like businesses and other organizations,” Said noted when talking about the capacity guidelines laid out by the regulation. “Church capacity is determined by the structure’s fire code limits.”
Metro Voice makes the claim that the guideline’s enforcement “will also be a tricky dilemma for authorities.”
The guidelines outlined what violations look like, “Violations of any provision of this Order constitutes an imminent threat, creates an immediate menace to public health, and shall be considered a violation of Section 50-155 of the City’s Code of Ordinances.”
The city asserts that it can fine churches and subject them to other penalties such as jail time for violations.
Liberty Council has multiple lawsuits on deck against governors who have “illegally and unconstitutionally fomented the arrests of pastors and launched attacks on the liberties of congregants.”
“I am running out of adjectives to describe how completely insane the tyrannical abuses launched by state governors and local officials against pastors and churches are becoming,” Staver with Liberty Council stated. “It is as if these leaders never bothered to so much as glance at the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend. They seem to be governing from some make-believe, dystopian viewpoint.”
We wish all the best for Liberty Council.
Public health crises are serious, but destroying civil liberties is not only immoral but also sub-optimal when dealing with a matter that really needs more of a targeted approach. America is a dynamic polity that can rely on civic institutions, market actors, and minimal government to handle a pandemic like the Wuhan virus.