BEAST (August 19, 2022)

Soon 15-Year-Olds In Kansas Will Be Able To Drive To Church And Other Religious Activities Alone With Restricted Licenses

Kansas 15-year-olds with a restricted license will soon be able to drive to church or other religious activities.

Gov. Laura Kelly on Monday signed SB 446, which grants teenagers a religious exemption to driver’s license restrictions. It previously passed the House 87-30 and the Senate 38-0.

Lawmakers rewrote statutes to entitle 15-year-olds with a restricted license to drive, between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., “directly to or from any religious activity held by a religious organization.”

Statutes already permit driving to farm-related work, jobs and school.

Similarly, 16-year-olds with a restricted license are already allowed to drive to religious worship services, school activities, farm-related work and jobs between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. The new law expands the exemption by changing the wording from “religious worship service” to “religious activity” held by a religious organization.Story from Anthem, Inc.The challenges of equity and healthSee More →

The language allows the religious exemption to cover a Sunday school Bible study or Wednesday evening youth group meetings that take place outside of traditional worship services.

Existing law defines “religious organization” to generally mean a church or other “bona fide” religious group that has an established place of worship and meets at least once a week.

The teens are allowed have siblings as passengers.

The law will take effect after its publication in the statute book, which happens July 1.

Lawmakers debated bill in February

The proposal was first debated during a House Transportation Committee hearing in February on HB 2609, which originally contained the legislation.

Rep. Charlotte Esau, R-Olathe, introduced the original bill with bipartisan support from 46 other lawmakers after a friend asked her about allowing 15-year-old to drive to church.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

“One of the things that I found very quickly when I started to talk about this bill with a couple of folks is that it was very much presumed that we could do this, or if we couldn’t do it, why couldn’t we do it,” Esau said.

Rep. Leo Delperdang, R-Wichita, noted that not all religions, let alone all Christian denominations, worship on Sundays. He implied that it could open the door for teenage drivers to falsely claim religious exemptions.

“If I’m out cruising around on a Saturday night at 15 years old in my car and I get pulled over, can I say I’m Seventh-day Adventist, I’m heading off to my worship service?” Delperdang asked. “Do I need to be able to prove such a thing?”

“Well, I don’t believe we actually have to prove it when it comes to work and school,” Esau replied. “But there’s nothing to stop an officer from, say, following you to make sure you’re actually going where you said you were going.”

Religious liberty

Salina pastor Jeff Piepho, a father of six children, said he contacted Esau about what he considered to be an oversight in the previous law.

After hiring someone to take over as youth group leader, “I thought great, now I won’t have to come on Wednesday nights anymore,” Piepho said. “My daughter could just drive them.”

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