Missouri church sues Jackson County for religious discrimination in phase 1 reopening plan

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. (WDAF) — A church has filed a lawsuit through the Western Missouri U.S. District Court, alleging that Jackson County’s phase 1 reopening plan discriminates against religious institutions.

The lawsuit, brought by Abundant Life Baptist Church, claims that the county’s plan unfairly targets religious conduct, and that “the rules were plainly discriminatory.”

Under the Eastern Jackson County Recovery Plan Phase 1, several types of businesses – including nail salons, retail stores, bars and restaurants – will be allowed to open with restrictions. Those smaller than 10,000 sq. ft. can operate at 25% capacity, and those larger can operate at 10% capacity.

However, the plan lists churches as “large gatherings,” along with weddings and funerals. These are limited to no more than 10 people.

The lawsuit claims the church should be allowed 10% of its occupancy, which would allow 474 people in the building at a time. Instead, the current plan would only allow 10 inside.

The church argues that the county has not provided a clear reason why churches are more restricted than other businesses, and that they would be allowed hundreds of more people if they engaged in retail sales.

Jackson County, the county health department, Executive Frank White, Jr., Emergency Coordinator Troy Schulte, health department Director Bridgette Shaffer and Truman Medical Center are all listed as defendants in the suit. None of the defendants have issued a statement in response.

The county is relaxing its stay-at-home order Monday, May 11. Wyandotte County and Johnson County, Kansas are doing the same.

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