Johnson County says church gathering size restrictions still in effect after clarification from state

Johnson County says its 10-person limit on the size of gatherings still applies to churches after receiving a clarification document from the state. Johnson County churches, like St. Ann Catholic Church in Prairie Village, have been working to organize ways for members to participate in worship services via the internet and resources that can be used at home.

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The 10-person limit on gathering sizes will still apply to religious services, Johnson County officials said Friday night after receiving clarification from the governor’s office.

The statewide stay-at-home ordered issued by Gov. Laura Kelly March 28 led to some confusion here in Johnson County about whether churches and other religious institutions were still subject to the gathering size limit of 10 people instituted as part of the CORE 4 partners’ stay-at-home order, which was announced a week prior.

The metro-area order did not provide a blanket exemption for religious institutions. However, Kelly’s order made gun shops and churches exempt from the gathering size limits along with essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies. For the past week, county leaders said they weren’t sure whether the state order superseded the local order in that regard.

On Friday evening, the governor’s office provided counties with a document outlining “guidance for the conduct of church services and operations” during the pandemic. That document says that churches must undertake “appropriate safety protocols” — including adhering to any “‘mass gathering’ prohibition that is more restrictive” that the statewide order.

“The clarification provides that local mass gathering limitations are still in effect and apply to churches unless they are exempted,” said Jody Hanson, Johnson County’s director of public affairs and communication. “As such, Johnson County’s 10-person limit on mass gatherings remains in effect through April 22.  Our mass gathering order does not exempt churches.”

You can read the full clarification document from the governor’s office here.