Kansas City mayor amends rule forcing churches to record names of churchgoers

Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas | Photo: Facebook/Quinton Lucas

Mayor Quinton Lucas has amended an executive order that required churches, businesses and organizations deemed "nonessential" to record the names of anyone who entered their buildings and stayed for more than 10 minutes. 

On Monday, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, amended his “10-10-10” coronavirus rule issued last week that allowed businesses, houses of worship and other institutions deemed nonessential by the government to reopen at 10% of their original capacity or 10 people, whichever is greater. 

After receiving pushback against the name-reporting requirement, the mayor made it optional. Churches and businesses are no longer required to supply the government with the names and contact details of people who entered their buildings and stayed there for more than 10 minutes. The mayor said he instituted the policy so health department officials could track and "isolate" people in case a facility became the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“In the interest of public health and in order to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak in the community, those business operations should consider maintaining a record of customers on the premises,” the amended rule states. “Any information collected under this subsection by the business operation or the Department of Public Health shall remain confidential to the extent allowed by law and be utilized only for public health purposes or to address public health concerns.”

It was initially reported that the goal of the reporting requirement was so the government could “quickly trace, test, and isolate individuals” who the government has reason to believe might have been exposed to the virus at those facilities.  

The new order states that religious gatherings such as weddings, funerals, memorial services and wakes can continue as long as there's no more than 10 people or 10% of the building’s indoor capacity or 50 people for outside gatherings. 

“In the interest of public health and to avoid COVID-19 outbreak connected to a religious gathering, event organizers should consider maintaining a record of attendees where appropriate,” the amended order reads. “Attendees are not required, however, to provide their names or contact information at any religious gathering.”

The order was quickly opposed by the Florida-based Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, which argues that the order is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. 

Although the mayor amended his order, Liberty Counsel asserts that the rule still discriminates against houses of worship in two ways. 

“First, they are excluded from the ‘essential’ category and thus subjected to unequal treatment from the beginning,” a press release from the organization reads. 

“Essential operations, including gatherings inside and outside, are exempt from the 10/10/10 rule as well as name and contact recording. Second, religious gatherings for churches and houses of worship conducted outside were limited to no more than 50 people. No other secular outside gathering has this limitation of the 10/10/10 rule, which also includes recording names and contact information of any person who attends.”

Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver declared in a statement that the requirement for churches to record the names of attendees “was a gross violation of the First Amendment.”

“Due to the overwhelming public outcry, the Kansas City Mayor reversed course and removed this unconstitutional provision,” Staver said. “That is the good news. The bad news, which Kansas City must still remedy, is the continued unconstitutional treatment of churches and houses of worship compared to other secular gatherings.” 

In a statement Tuesday, Lucas reasoned that the city was only asking for businesses and organizations that typically record attendance or reservations to maintain their records in case of an outbreak. 

“The government will not create or keep any records,” Lucas said. “Like other outbreaks, from E-coli to measles in our schools, the Health Department is bound to confidentiality as it works with any organization to protect its attendees.”

A spokesperson for Lucas told The Kansas City Star that the mayor felt over the weekend that there was a need for “clearer guidance expressing the voluntary nature of the requirement” instead of “engaging in ad nauseam political debate.”

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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