bookmark_borderMassGOP gets it right on re-opening plan

In my home state of Massachusetts, the state Republican Party has been speaking out against excessive government restrictions to fight the coronavirus. Governor Charlie Baker has begun gradually allowing businesses to open (as if the government had a right to order businesses to close to begin with), and dismayingly but unsurprisingly, numerous politicians have been criticizing even this as too risky.

The Massachusetts Republican Party has come out on the side of individual liberty on this issue. On May 26, they and numerous supporters sent a letter to Gov. Baker urging him to stay the course on re-opening the state. The letter reads in part:

By now, it should be clear: the shutdown of private businesses, large and small, has given the Democratic Party — the party of government overreach — a political boost. This disastrous pandemic has led to unconstitutional decrees being set in stone almost overnight, creating what is unquestionably a dream scenario for the Democrats — stifle independence, entrepreneurship, and personal responsibility, and you create a world dependent upon the state.

We write to you today to urge you to push back, publicly, on the Democrats’ demands to keep Massachusetts shuttered.

We write to you today to remind you that the most regulated businesses in the Commonwealth, our nursing homes, also happen to account for more than 61 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths.

We write to you today to convey the frustrations of small business owners, who have had to padlock their doors while their big-box competitors across the street are allowed to remain open. We write to you today to remind you that the Massachusetts business community lives and breathes on the ambitions, creativity, and dreams of its residents, but will die a painful death if it succumbs to the whims of an unelected bureaucracy. These business owners realize the importance of maintaining a hygienic environment — if the public does not trust them and their products, no amount of government intervention will keep them afloat….

Democrats like to talk about fatalities associated with this virus, but still unknown yet just as tragic are the deaths that will occur due to alcoholism, drug use, and suicide, all of which will be on the increase as long as residents are forced to lock themselves away.
 
Ten weeks of lockdowns have been enough. We’ve flattened the curve, prevented our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and sacrificed our liberties. We’ve watched as a hyper-partisan media has misfired on their forecasts of doom.

The full letter can be read here.

Additionally, the MassGOP issued a statement against a letter by 91 economists calling for – it makes me sick to even write this – new taxes to cover any budget shortfall resulting from the pandemic and associated shutdown. “Incredibly, these economists are calling for an income tax increase at the absolute worst possible time, when mandated business shutdowns have people struggling to make any income at all,” said MassGOP chairman Jim Lyons. I couldn’t have said it any better.

The MassGOP also has a petition to re-open the state, which can be signed here.

bookmark_borderThis weekend in overzealous social distancing enforcement…

In one of the latest examples of overzealous attempts to fight the spread of COVID-19, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham banned a drive-in movie theater from reopening.

According to the Washington Times, city officials in Las Vegas, New Mexico believed that the state government had given the drive-in the OK, and a showing of “Trolls World Tour” and “Doolittle” was planned. But then the governor called the county’s emergency management department and told them the drive-in wasn’t allowed to open after all. “The governor’s office said they would treat the drive-in just like any other movie theater,” said Mayor Louie Trujillo.

This makes no sense. A drive-in, where people sit in their cars in an outdoor field watching a movie on a huge screen, is completely different than a movie theater, where everyone is sitting in an indoor auditorium. If there is any form of entertainment well-suited to social distancing requirements, it would be a drive-in. I can think of no reason why a governor would ban a drive-in from operating, unless she is attempting to be as much of a jerk as possible and to ensure that none of her citizens are able to do anything remotely fun, ever.

In separate but similar news, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot dispatched three squad cars and two unmarked cars filled with armed officers… to shut down a church service.

Pastor Courtney Lewis was in the middle of his sermon at the Cornerstone Baptist Church when the police began to bang loudly on the front doors.

“All we are seeking is the same consideration and trust that is being tendered toward the liquor stores, abortion clinics, and Walmart,” the pastor said, according to the Geller Report. He described the arrival of the armed cops as “like the Soviet-style KGB… the only thing she hasn’t done yet is beat the doors down and arrest our members.”

Pastor Lewis wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch which can be read here.

bookmark_borderCoronavirus vaccine should not be mandatory

When a vaccine for the coronavirus is eventually developed, it will be a huge benefit to those who want the protection and peace of mind that it brings. There will also almost certainly be a minority of people who – for one reason or another – would prefer not to receive the vaccine.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

That’s why it’s disturbing that Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz said in an interview:

If a safe vaccine is to be developed for Covid-19, I hope it’s mandated, and I will defend it… Let me put it very clearly, you have no constitutional right to endanger the public and spread the disease, even if you disagree. You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.

Like most proponents of forcing people to undergo medial procedures against their will, Dershowitz points to the Supreme Court’s decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), in which the court ruled that states may require people to be vaccinated if their boards of health deem it necessary for public health or safety. As World Net Daily puts it: “If any individual is allowed to act without regard to the welfare of others, true liberty does not exist, the court argued.”

I strongly disagree with this school of thought. Each person has a right to do anything he or she wishes, as long as those actions do not violate the rights of anyone else. What determines whether an action violates someone’s rights? One must compare the effect of the action on other people against the effect of banning the action on the person or people who wish to do the action.

In the case of vaccines, the question is: Which has a more direct impact on a person, having other people existing in the world who have not been vaccinated, or being forced to be vaccinated against one’s will?

As Dershowitz and the Jacobson court note, people are affected somewhat by the existence of other people who do not get vaccines. The percentage of people in a community who have or have not been vaccinated does affect each individual’s risk of catching a disease. People who are not able to get vaccines for medical reasons can catch illnesses from those who have chosen not to get the vaccine.

However, this impact is indirect. Actually getting sick has a large and direct impact on someone’s life, but a person who hasn’t gotten a vaccine does not cause anyone to become sick. The disease does. The presence of unvaccinated people merely affects a person’s risk of catching a disease; it does not cause a person to catch a disease.

On the other hand, being required to undergo a medical procedure such as vaccination affects a person directly. It involves a person’s skin being pierced by a needle and a substance being injected into his or her body.

A person’s right to make decisions about his/her own body outweighs any supposed right to make decisions about the bodies of other people in order to manage one’s own disease risk. In other words, the importance of being able to decide for oneself whether or not to get vaccines outweighs the importance of being able to decide whether or not the people around you get vaccines.

A country in which the government has the power to take someone to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into their arm is a country without liberty in any meaningful sense of the word. To claim, as the Jacobson court did, that there is no true liberty without being able to control other people’s actions that might have an indirect impact on you, is ridiculous.

I would likely choose to get the coronavirus vaccine when it comes out. But it should be my choice.

bookmark_borderLiberty Fest takes place in Sacramento, CA

Yesterday, the largest protest yet took place against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.

2,000 people gathered outside the State Capitol in Sacramento to demand the re-opening of churches, gyms, barbershops, nail salons, and more. In addition to pro-freedom signs, speeches, and t-shirts, the rally featured food trucks, rock and country music, and haircuts by stylist La Donna Christensen, who set up temporary hair cutting stations in order to demonstrate that hair salons are safe and should be allowed to re-open.

According to the Sacramento Bee, some people wore t-shirts that read, “Resist. Rise. Revolt. Reopen.” An airplane circled around towing a banner that read, “End his tyranny.” 

Called Liberty Fest, this protest sounds like it was part political rally and part Memorial Day celebration. And I can think of no better way to celebrate Memorial Day weekend than fighting against authoritarianism.

bookmark_borderGym owner defies restrictions in MA

In my home state of Massachusetts, a gym owner is defying government restrictions and encouraging others to do the same.

Dave Blondin, owner of Prime Fitness & Nutrition in Oxford, MA, opened his business on Monday, even though Massachusetts will not allow gyms to open until “phase 3” of its reopening plan. Monday was the beginning of phase 1.

“Enough is enough,” Blondin said, according to the Boston Herald. “We need our sanity back. Gyms should join me. Every gym owner is essential… We need to stand our ground. We have to open our gyms.”

“They’re so happy and smiling being able to work out again,” he said of gym members. “It’s so important for their mental health, anxiety, stress, depression.” He added that members are unanimously supporting him and have offered to pay any fines that the gym incurs.

One gym member, a nurse, said: “I think it’s a great idea. It definitely helps with the mental health… I don’t think there’s any issue going on whatsoever.”

Blondin said in a Facebook video: “I would like to call upon all other gyms in Massachusetts to do the same. Whether you’re big, whether you’re small, whether you’re a studio, whatever you are, start opening your doors. We’re all in this together. If Walmart that’s right down the street can sit there and have 356 cars there, then we can work out.”

So far Blondin has received a verbal warning and a written warning from the Oxford Board of Health. The law authorizes a $300 fine for each day the gym is open, as well as eventually a cease and desist order. Yesterday, 7 News captured an exchange between Blondin and board of health agent Tom Purcell during which Purcell asked Blondin if there was anything he could to convince him to comply. “Nope, let me open my business and get back to my livelihood,” he replied.

Speaking to 7 News, Blondin said, “It’s not fair. We’ve been out of business for too long now. The eight weeks have gone by, and I’ve used my PPP (paycheck protection program) funds, and that’s it. Unless they want to fund me again, this is over.”

“It takes a lot to stand up to everybody who’s staying closed,” said gym member Samantha Chamberlain.

Blondin said to Channel 5/WCVB:”If the worst thing that they’re gonna do is give me a citation… I’m trying to choose my freedom. Yeah, I’ll take the citation.”

Town Manager Jennifer Callahan said she has received “many angry calls and emails from residents calling on the town to shutter this business immediately.” Why someone would make an angry call or send an angry email about people minding their own business is beyond me. Blondin and his members are doing nothing wrong, and I admire their courage in standing up to government overreach.

bookmark_borderAs restaurants open, warrantless searches should not be on the menu

As restrictions on people and businesses are gradually lifted, a disturbing new practice has emerged. Some cities and states are requiring restaurants and other businesses to collect information on customers to assist governments with contact tracing efforts.

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell is asking all businesses to keep track of everyone who enters their establishment. “Businesses will be expected to play a role and to have a plan in place to help track employees and clients in their space,” a city spokesperson said. Michael Hecht, the President of Greater New Orleans, Inc. voiced opposition to this idea, saying that business owners are concerned about “privacy of customer data and whether customers even want to give this data.”

In Kansas City, Missouri, restaurants must collect customers’ names, phone numbers, and check-in and check-out times.

Elsewhere in Kansas, Linn County implemented a similar requirement for a variety of businesses including restaurants, health clinics, dentists, pharmacies, banks, stores, and day care centers. A newspaper publisher and a restaurant owner have filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the requirement authorizes warrantless searches. “Constitutional rights do not get suspended during a pandemic,” said Samuel MacRoberts of the Kansas Justice Institute. “There is a clear process by which governments can obtain business and personal records. Unfortunately, Linn County has ignored that process and put the basic rights of its citizens in serious jeopardy.”

Austin, Texas is also requiring restaurants to keep a log of diners. The president of the Texas Restaurant Association, Emily Williams Knight, called the requirement “simply not right” and voiced concerns about the burden on small businesses and the privacy implications for customers.  

Rhode Island has enacted a similar policy. “Establishments shall maintain an employee work log and retain the names and contact information of individuals placing reservations for a period of at least 30 days and make this information available to RIDOH upon request for the purposes of contact tracing,” the phase 1 re-opening guidelines state.

In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee initially planned to require restaurants to track each customer’s name, email address, phone number, and what time they came in to eat. Fortunately, however, he changed his mind and made the data collection voluntary.

Hopefully these data collection requirements will not become the norm. People have a right to privacy. People have a right to live their lives without their activities being tracked and monitored. And people have a right to go about their business – including going to stores, restaurants, and bars – without anyone knowing their identity, if they so choose. Requiring people to provide their identities whenever they visit a restaurant or other business is a disturbing step towards a totalitarian society.

bookmark_borderArmed citizens to the rescue in Texas

The New York Times did an article recently about businesses that have been opening in defiance of government restrictions, and the armed citizens who have come to their aid.

In Shepherd, Texas, for example, tattoo artist Jamie Williams reopened her studio, called Crash-N-Burn, with the help of five armed activists determined to prevent police from arresting her. They set up a perimeter around the parking lot, outfitted with with AR-15s, camouflage vests, and walkie-talkies.

“I had a feeling that finally somebody had my back,” said Williams. “And it’s really sad that citizens are having my back as opposed to my government.”

“It’s not for looks,” said one of the armed men, J.P. Campbell of Freedom Fighters of Texas. “We’re willing to die.”

“I think it should be a business’s right if they want to close or open,” said Philip Archibald, another one of the activists. “What is coming to arrest a person who is opening their business according to their constitutional rights? That’s confrontation.”

Archibald has protested in support of and provided security for several businesses in Texas. In another instance, he and his group were on the scene when Big Daddy Zane’s bar opened in defiance of stay-at-home orders in Odessa, Texas. Sadly, cops arrived in an armored vehicle and arrested the bar’s owner and several of Archibald’s friends. He plans to travel to California and New Jersey to continue his activism.

“We go out there because we want peace, but we prepare for war,” said C.J. Grisham of Open Carry Texas. “I hope this never happens, but at some point guns are going to have to cease to be a show of force and be a response to force.”

At least one government official, County Judge Fritz Faulkner of San Jacinto County, where Crash-N-Burn is located, voiced support. “The powers that be came to their senses and said, ‘Look, you can’t do this,'” he said of the governor’s decision to stop criminal enforcement of the lockdown measures. “Now, my personal opinion is, if a barbershop can open, I don’t know why a tattoo shop couldn’t open.”

Unsurprisingly, Ed Scruggs, president of Texas Gun Sense, criticized citizens for exercising their Second Amendment rights and standing up for the rights of their fellow citizens. “People are nervous enough as it is, and then to see people walking around with AR-15s in public places, gathered together like that, is unnerving and upsetting,” he said. “The entire goal is intimidation and attention.”

I couldn’t disagree more. People have every right to walk around with AR-15s in public places. I can think of few sights more uplifting or inspiring than ordinary Americans bravely standing up to tyranny. Unnerving and upsetting? No way! Plus, standing up for the rights of businesses and individuals is not intimidation. It is the government that is practicing intimidation by arresting and threatening to arrest people who have done nothing wrong. These activists are simply defending their rights. I salute their bravery and their willingness to risk their lives for their principles.

bookmark_borderVictory for freedom in Oregon

In Oregon, a court declared restrictions on people’s freedom of movement and assembly “null and void.” Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff issued a preliminary injunction against Governor Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order. He ruled that the emergency order should have expired after 28 days because the state legislature was never convened to renew it.

“Once the maximum 28-day period is exceeded,” the judge explained, “the governor’s executive orders and all subsequent orders were rendered null and void.”

The lawsuit was initially brought by several churches, and a variety of businesses and individuals joined as plaintiffs as well.

According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ray Hacke, the ruling invalidates the stay-at-home order not only with respect to church services but in its entirety. “The stay-at-home order is no longer in effect,” he said. “It is invalidated. If people want to get their hair cut, they can. They can leave their home for any reason whether it’s deemed essential in the eye of the state or not…. Praise God. I’m excited, and I’m glad that the judge saw that there are limitations on the governor’s power, even in the midst of emergencies.”

Another person involved in the lawsuit was gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix. “The governor may issue guidelines and she may encourage Oregonians to be safe,” he said. “She may not close down churches and businesses under pain of criminal misdemeanor charges.”

I could not agree more strongly with these sentiments. The government has a right to issue public health recommendations and educate people about risks. But people must be allowed to make their own decisions about how to manage their risk.

Gov. Brown announced that she was going to appeal the ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court. However, Judge Shirtcliff declined to issue a stay of his ruling, meaning that the order is unenforceable while the appeal is pending.

“The science behind these executive orders hasn’t changed one bit,” said the governor. “Ongoing physical distancing, staying home as much as possible, and wearing face coverings will save lives across Oregon.”

With all due respect, Gov. Brown is missing the point. The science may very well be what she says it is. But science does not have anything to do with which laws should be enacted. Moral principles are the only thing that should be considered when determining what the laws should be. The most important moral principle is the non-aggression principle, the idea that people have a right to do any action that does not violate the rights of others. Banning things that do not violate the rights of others – exactly what is done by stay-at-home restrictions – is wrong. This is true regardless of what the science says and regardless of how many lives the restrictions save.

Individual rights must always come first. Thank you to Judge Shirtcliff for upholding them.

bookmark_borderRebellious gym owner arrested in California

In Oceanside, California, gym owner Lou Uridel was arrested for opening his business in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home order. Upon being released, he has continued to defy the order by re-opening the gym. The police department stated that it plans to cite Uridel for each day the gym remains in operation. The maximum penalty for each citation is $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.

Reportedly, police told Uridel that they would arrest every customer if he reopened his gym. However, after consulting with his lawyer, he was advised that police did not have the power to do that, and so he decided to re-open this past Wednesday.

“There’s some members who kind of shy away from that and there’s some members who say, you know what, if they’re going to take me away in handcuffs for working out, then they can go ahead and do it,” Uridel said.

Salute to everyone who falls into the second category and is willing to take a stand against government overreach.

bookmark_borderAnti-lockdown lawsuits all around the country

Politico has a good article outlining the lawsuits that have been filed all around the country against various states’ COVID-19 lockdown orders. Here are some examples:

  • In California there have been numerous lawsuits filed against Governor Gavin Newsom for his closures of gun stores, churches, gyms, yoga studios, hair salons, and beaches, ban on protests, and the stay-at-home order in its entirety. In one example, LA County resident Samuel Armstrong sued the state, arguing (correctly, in my opinion) that the order amounts to detention without due process of law, thereby violating the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who represents the plaintiffs in several of these lawsuits, said, “We do not shut down our highways because people die in car accidents. We do not ban commerce because people die of lung disease after buying cigarettes.”
  • In Kentucky, four protesters sued Governor Andy Beshear, arguing that the state’s restrictions on protests violate the First Amendment. Another lawsuit focusing on the ban of church services was upheld by a federal court.
  • In Maine, a group of business owners sued Governor Janet Mills over her stay-at-home order.
  • In Maryland, a group of business owners, religious leaders, and state delegates sued Governor Larry Hogan, asking for a restraining order preventing enforcement of the state’s lockdown.
  • In Ohio, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law sued Governor Mike DeWine over his closure of non-essential businesses. More recently, this organization filed another lawsuit on behalf of 35 independent gym owners, who are still not permitted to open, despite the fact that the government has begun to lift restrictions.
  • In Pennsylvania, a group of business owners sued Governor Tom Wolf over the closure of non-essential businesses in a lawsuit that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
  • In Texas, activist and lawyer Jared Woodfill has sued Governor Greg Abbott, arguing that the state’s lockdown order violates the Texas and U.S. Constitutions. Additionally, State Attorney General Ken Paxton has threatened to sue the governments of Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio if they do not lift their strict stay-at-home measures.
  • And of course, in Wisconsin, a great victory took place this past Wednesday when the state Supreme Court struck down as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” the stay-at-home order enacted by Governor Tony Evers and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. “Where in the Constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer the authority on a single unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply? With no input from the legislature, without the consent of the people? Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?” asked Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley.

Salute to all of the plaintiffs, lawyers, and judges taking the side of freedom and individual rights.