Kansas Court Slaps Down Lege's Attempt To Spread Coronavirus For Jesus
After an emergency Zoom hearing Saturday, the Supreme Court of Kansas ruled that the state's Republican legislators can't simply barf out nonsense during a pandemic and call it a statute. No, not even if they really want to score points with their Christian conservative base and show that lady Democrat governor what's what. Because SHUT UP, THAT IS NOT HOW LAW GOES.
The trouble started last week when Kansas Governor Laura Kelly expanded the ban on mass gatherings to include religious services. Three of the state's 12 virus clusters can be traced back to church meetings, and Kelly feared more if she didn't close the loophole granting an exception for Easter services yesterday.
"As Holy Week gets underway – and with Kansas rapidly approaching its projected 'peak' infection rate in the coming weeks – the risk for a spike in COVID-19 cases through church gatherings is especially dangerous," Kelly said. "This was a difficult decision, and not one I was hoping to have to make. But I've said repeatedly during this crisis that we will adjust to circumstances as they develop to make sure we do everything we can to protect Kansans."
Sensing an opportunity for fuckery, Kansas Republicans leapt to their feet, shouting inanities about the sacred right of Christians to assemble in viral fellowship. Not that they wanted to go to church, mind you. They just wanted to make a stink about their right to do so.
Kelly's order is "good public policy," Kansas state House Speaker Ron Ryckman told the Washington Post, "It's just not constitutional."
"We're not willing to have someone's religious beliefs threatened," he said. "I don't think they should be attending group services during this pandemic, but I'm also not willing to have them go to jail for doing so."
It makes complete sense if you remember that Republicans don't give a shit about the common good, they just want to pretend that Christians are being persecuted by Democrats, particularly during Easter.
If Kansas's legislature were actually in session, then they could enact any damn fool law they wanted. But it isn't because duh we're in the middle of a pandemic. The Kansas legislature handed the keys off to a seven-member Legislative Coordinating Council, or LCC. And the LCC can override a gubernatorial emergency declaration, but only if the governor comes to the State Finance Council and asks for an extension of the emergency order. Which hasn't happened, because the legislature itself passed a bill extending the emergency through May 1.
So the constitutionality of the ban on church services is entirely irrelevant, because the LCC never had the right to issue an order canceling Kelly's declaration in the first place. A church might have standing to challenge the order in court. And if Kelly had sent the cops to some of the churches that actually held services yesterday in defiance of the order, anyone prosecuted might have standing to challenge the law as violating the state's constitution. But LCC itself had no power to scribble UR CANCELT on a piece of letterhead and call it a law.
As the Court held:
House Concurrent Resolution 5025 does not authorize the Legislative Coordinating Council to revoke Executive Order 20-18. Its plain text requires, as a condition precedent to exercise any Legislative Coordinating Council power, action by the State Finance Council to permit extension of the time of the Governor's state of disaster emergency declaration.
Which the Kansas GOP knew perfectly well before they started this idiotic Passion Play. They wanted this fight to score political points with the religious Right, and will now use it to claim that Christians are a persecuted majority in blood red Kansas. Third verse, same as the first.
But while we're on the subject, it's ADORABLE that the Trump administration claims we'll be able to reopen the economy by pulling together to surrender a little bit of our liberty and privacy to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. As if Red State Murikans will cheerfully agree to contact tracing and constant testing as a precondition of returning to normal life. Meanwhile, the GOP demonstrates every single day that it will treat any public health measure as a gross infringement of their sacred individual liberties, and THIS AGGRESSION WILL NOT STAND, MAN!
We are so, so fucked.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.