Attorney General William Barr speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Monday, March 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
There have been a lot of disconcerting things that we all have had to deal with in our lives with the coming of the Wuhan virus pandemic.
But perhaps one of the worst is the troubling infringement on constitutional rights and dystopian moves to impose control that we have seen taking place from various state and local governments.
Everything from using drones to spy on people to draconian restrictions against what you can buy, arresting people for going to a religious service or going to the beach by themselves.
Here’s one example of a drive-in religious service, seemingly adhering to social distancing and being responsible, yet still the pastor was hassled by the police and told his rights had been “suspended.”
Video from Pastor Hamilton of King James Bible Baptist Church in Greenville, MS. Church tried the “drive-in” method of holding services & were targeted due to the Mayor issuing an order prohibiting such services. Watch as an officer tells the Pastor that his rights are suspended. pic.twitter.com/zLdT6Qd8ew
— Nick Short (@PoliticalShort) April 11, 2020
Gotta hand it to Pastor Hamilton for schooling the police on the Constitution.
A lot of governors and local officials seem to think that the pandemic gives them the right to infringe on rights. Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, when asked by Tucker Carlson, why 15 people were reportedly arrested for going to synagogue in New Jersey, said well, he “wasn’t considering the Bill of Rights.” Murphy continued, “We looked at all the data and the science and it says people have to stay away from each other. That is the best thing we can do to break the back of the curve of this virus, that leads to lower hospitalization and ultimately fatalities.”
Exactly. That’s a problem. Because, as Attorney General Bill Barr explained today during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, you have to consider the Bill of Rights. It’s essential in the weighing process of any of these rules or restrictions.
Some states have tried to close gun shops, ban traveling to a second residence even buying seeds or paint.
While Barr explained that a government might be able to put temporary or reasonable restrictions in response to an emergency, they could not just disregard those rights.
So initially, when you’re faced with a potential catastrophe, the government can deploy measures and even put temporary and reasonable restrictions on rights if really necessary to meet the danger,” Barr said.
“But it still has the obligation to adapt to the circumstances. Whatever powers the government has, whether it be the president or the state governor, still is bounded by Constitutional rights of the individual. Our federal Constitutional rights don’t go away in an emergency. They constrain what the government can do. And in a circumstance like this, they put on the government the burden to make sure that whatever burdens it’s putting on our Constitutional liberties are strictly necessary to deal with the problem,” he continued. “They have to be targeted. They have to use less intrusive means if they are equally effective in dealing with the problem. And that’s the situation we’re in today. We’re moving into a period where we have to do a better job of targeting the measures we’re deploying to deal with this virus.”
It requires a balancing act and the government has to show they have a compelling state interest and there aren’t less restrictive measures that they could employ to enforce their public health concerns. So, for example, in the case of the “drive-in service,” it might be difficult to argue that that wasn’t complying with social distancing and to bust it might be problematic.
Barr has previously announced he would be examining the excesses going on to help prevent/deal with Constitutional violations.
Fortunately, it sounds like people are going to start being sprung soon in several states. Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee announced they will reopen for business on May 1 and more will doubtless be following them shortly thereafter.