Kansas Pastor Holds Easter Services, Says He Can Bypass Mass Gatherings Ban by Claiming Guests Are Part of Church Choir

A Kansas pastor who held Easter Sunday services despite the state's mass gatherings ban says he's found a loophole to bypass the order by claiming that all his guests are part of the church choir.

CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman, reporting from outside a church in Basehor Sunday, said most religious facilities in the area have vowed to remain closed because it is "against the law to have a church service on Easter with more than 10 people inside" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One exception, Tuchman continued, was a church in Basehor holding three services on Sunday. "The one at 7 a.m. had more than 50 people, the one at 10 a.m. had more than 50 people, and they have another one tonight at 7 p.m.," he reported. "The pastor says he expects another 50 people."

Tuchman noted that he watched crowds arrive at the 10 a.m. service: "Men, women, children, even a baby came in." The church and pastor were not identified by name in the segment.

While the pastor says they are doing some social distancing inside, he would not allow Tuchman access to verify. However, the reporter confirmed that the location's capacity fits roughly 300 people and he counted around 45 guests entering the facility.

Tuchman said the pastor claims he is not breaking the law. "He says there's a loophole in the law," he reported on CNN. "In the executive order, signed by the Democratic governor, it states that preachers, readers, choir or musical performers don't count as part of your 10."

"He says, 'Everyone that comes to my church singing, they're part of the choir, they are musical performers,'" Tuchman reported. "It may not matter because the Republican attorney general of the state, who did not agree with what the Democratic governor did, says that people should voluntarily not go to church now."

"But he says nobody should be arrested if they break the law," he added.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Saturday won a Kansas Supreme court ruling on Saturday that allowed her powers to suspend operations such as large church services amid the coronavirus pandemic. The judgment meant Kelly's ban on religious gatherings of over 10 people was maintained the night before Easter Sunday.

"My top priority has always been the safety and well-being of all Kansas," Kelly said in a statement. "I know this pandemic is extremely hard for everyone."

"Most other states, at the urging of the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have taken similar steps to protect Americans to slow the spread of COVID-19," the governor added.

Newsweek reached out to Kelly's office for comment.

Church pews
A Hillary Clinton flyer rests on a church pew before the Democratic presidential candidate speaks at a Community Forum on Gun Violence Prevention held at Tabernacle Baptist Church on March 29, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Darren Huack/Getty