A Kansas City-area Baptist megachurch has reached a $150,000 settlement with the county over coronavirus restrictions, with the church claiming that the county treated them more harshly than secular institutions when it came to COVID protocols.
Abundant Life Baptist Church, which has locations in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against Jackson County over a year ago, arguing, as places of worship in other states have, that the county’s coronavirus restrictions treated places of worship more harshly than secular institutions such as retail stores.
Under the terms of the settlement, Jackson County vowed that in exchange for the church dropping the lawsuit, it would ensure that future enforcement measures would not impose stricter requirements on religious organizations than their secular counterparts, the Christian Post reported.
Jackson is one of Missouri’s largest counties by population, and Abundant Life claims that some 4,500 people generally attend their services.
When the church filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri during May 2020, the county’s coronavirus restrictions limited church services to no more than 10 people, while stores, restaurants and bars did not have numerical limitations, but rather percentage-based limits, generally 10-25% of capacity.
The church argued that the rules went against both the First Amendment and the Missouri Constitution.
“If Abundant Life were to engage in retail sales, or served food and liquor as a bar, rather than religious worship at its Lee’s Summit location, Jackson County’s Phase I plan would allow 474 people in the building at a time while meeting or exceeding the CDC’s guidelines,” the lawsuit claims.
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