A local pastor said he plans Thursday to join a civil suit against Jackson County after not hearing of any revised reopening guidelines regarding churches.
Bobby Hawk, pastor of EPIC church in Independence, said Wednesday if a revised guideline was announced that didn’t go into effect until next week, he still planned to join the suit filed last week by Abundant Life Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, which also has a campus in Blue Springs.
Jackson County’s first reopening guidelines, which went into effect Monday, allow restaurants, stores and other commercial businesses to reopen with 10 or 25 percent capacity, depending on square footage. That’s a first step away from restrictions impose because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Churches are limited to 10 people regardless of size. Eastern Jackson County mayors – from Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Sugar Creek – had recommended to the county that churches and funeral homes be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity.
Kansas City has permitted churches in the city limits to resume services under 10 percent capacity guidelines.
In its lawsuit, Abundant Life alleges “unconstitutional and unlawful discrimination against religious institutions and person in orders and plans” and discrimination in favor of commercial gatherings over religious gatherings.
“If they’re delaying, it’s definitely becoming discriminatory,” Hawk said in a social media video for his church. “It’s frustrating.”
“We’re going to keep praying, but we’re going to keep pushing.”
Hawk said his church would be having sign-ups to maintain a 25-percent capacity for those comfortable attending Sunday’s services, in the event of a favorable ruling Friday.
County Legislature Chair Theresa Cass Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit, raised the church issue with County Executive Frank White Jr. at the May 4 legislative meeting during a discussion of the new county rules.
“I think churches are very important for us to look at because the community, they need the church,” she said.
Galvin said a church with a capacity of 300, for example, ought not be limited to 10 people. Many area churches far exceed that capacity.
“It doesn’t really make sense” as long as people in attendance maintain social distancing, she said.
Galvin asked White to take that into consideration, and he responded that he would.