Dickinson County Local Health Order amended after found to be in violation of religious freedoms

Dickinson County Local Health Order amended after found to be in violation of religious freedoms

By Becky Goff

DICKINSON COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) – Following the request of the Kansas Justice Institute, a Dickinson County Health order from December 2020 which included strict rules for religious establishments, was amended Thursday.

After hearing from the public and the Kansas Justice Institute, county leaders helped return religious freedoms to the Dickinson County community.

A request to change the health order, which was issued on December 17th, 2020, required religious institutions to reduce the maximum attendance to 25% of the approved fire code occupancy, was made to the Dickinson County Local Health Officer.

This same local health order allowed retail businesses to maintain 50% occupancy at their establishment.

“Constitutional rights still exist in a pandemic. The earlier health order imposed an arbitrary and unconstitutional impediment to the free exercise of religion.” Kansas Justice Institute, Litigation Director, Sam MacRoberts says.

The Kansas Justice Institute (KJI) sent a letter to the Local Health Officer, Brian Holmes, explaining the local health order was a violation of the United States and Kansas Constitutions. KJI asked Holmes to amend or cancel the local health order to correct the violation.

“No reasonable person can credibly deny COVID-19 is a serious public health issue that demands serious attention, but it does not excuse violating constitutional freedoms,” MacRoberts says.

At Thursday’s commission meeting, the Dickinson County Commissioners amended the most recent health order to protect religious liberties.

“To their great credit, Dickinson County ultimately did the right thing. They should be applauded for revising the health order. These are difficult times, and we credit the county leadership for remedying the situation so quickly,” says MacRoberts.

The Kansas Justice Institute has assisted with numerous issues related to local county health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has violated the law.