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_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_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.

bookmark_borderCoronavirus is no excuse for totalitarianism

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold suffering, from the lives lost to the economic devastation to the stress of routines being upended. But the most upsetting aspect of the crisis, in my opinion, is the curtailment of individual liberty. Local, state, and national governments have implemented increasingly strict measures to stop the spread of the virus, many of which violate people’s rights and therefore are morally wrong.

Many, if not most, states in the U.S. have enacted stay-at-home orders, meaning that all businesses are banned from operating, other than those that the government has deemed essential. Restaurant service, sporting events, and most retail shopping is banned. So are gatherings of more than ten people. People are urged, with varying degrees of coerciveness, not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes in an excellent column, the amount of power that the government has seized merely by declaring an emergency is disturbing. “In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker is empowered by state law to ‘exercise any and all authority over persons and property’ in whatever way he deems necessary to cope with the crisis. The law allows him to do virtually anything – from banning weddings to prohibiting travel to commandeering utilities to closing schools to throwing innumerable people out of work by declaring their jobs nonessential. Legislative approval is not required. Nor is a public vote. Nor is there any fixed date on which those godlike powers must be surrendered. Similarly sweeping emergency powers are available to governors in other states. Many similar powers are available to the president.”

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