Using Pandemic to Increase Power
Posted On April 16, 2020
This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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NJ Governor Admitted He Forgot About Bill of Rights by Closing Churches
In an overzealous fit of power-mongering, the New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy (D), banned religious gatherings. He did this via Executive Order, closing down houses of worship. Claiming he was only considering the public safety during the virus shutdown, he wasn’t thinking, he said. He wasn’t thinking that The US Constitution (USC), which he swore an oath to defend at his inauguration, was a priority.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.First Amendment, US Constitution (Cornell Law School website)
Why would he place general virus safety guidelines over the First Amendment rights of his citizens? Is the illusion of safety worth giving up essential liberty? Ben Franklin didn’t think so, neither do a lot of Americans still. Governor Murphy, it seems, has decided that it does.
“Passing the Buck” to Whom?
In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Governor Murphy said that he didn’t even consider the Bill of Rights, just the needs of the moment to keep people apart. When pressured on it further, he said that it was “…above my pay grade,…” Being the Governor of a US State, there is only one person he answers to as “above my pay grade”, the President. Is he claiming President Trump told him to shut down houses of worship? If not, then there is more wrong here than the Coronavirus.
He went on to justify it by having consulted with various members of clergies of different faiths. He then said that “the science” told him this is the way to go. It looks like he just took the initiative and got caught. Instead of squirming to the press about it, he should admit it. Sure, it’s smart to do, and would prevent potential exposure among the faithful. Most people would just blindly do it because he said so.
If it was a voluntary recommendation, there would be no issue. There are some though, either because they are knowledgeable and stubborn about their rights, and/or extremely devoted to their faith, are willing to risk it. Do you then make them wear armbands and prevent them from going anywhere else? Where is the line drawn? Is there one?
Where Does It End? Other Examples of Over-Reach
In another controversy in NJ, 15 Jewish men were arrested for attending a funeral, violating the order on crowds. One can understand the rule, it’s not safe to attend any large gatherings right now. I have a feeling that the 15 attendees, all Orthodox by the way (though it shouldn’t matter), were willing to accept the risk. Why is it the State’s place to deny them the option? If they later avoid people, quarantine themselves for the recommended 14 days, etc., there are no down sides.
In North Carolina, Raleigh Police said that protesting is not an “essential activity”, so they shut down people exercising that part of their First Amendment protections. Issuing a self-confirming Twitter statement, they still are upholding that stance. Their Governor’s Executive Order banning outdoor assemblies will keep being enforced, even for protests. This will no doubt draw more protests, until one side blinks, or worse.
In Michigan, people have already had Governor Whitmer (D) ban the sales of various “non-essentials” like paint, car seats, and gardening equipment. Her social distancing orders even include a ban on travel between residences! Thousands of protesters came out in a protest traffic jam to object to the lock-down. The combination of all these things is a bit over the line for people there.
Does Immediate Need Overrule Constitutional Rights?
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”William Pitt, speech, House of Commons, 18 November 1783
That is the $2.2 Trillion Dollar question (so far). How much do we let this continue “to be safe”? Should we destroy our economy utterly, adopt a permanent socialism-based system to be built-up around “social distancing”, reduced purchasing options for goods, services, and foods? Are we bound to adopt a permanent, monthly Universal Income in place of Stimulus? Andrew Yang would like it. What happens when money runs out?
Without a functioning and robust economy, we would quickly devolve into a larger version of Venezuela. California is almost there. As it gets closer to breaking, we can see cracks occurring in the systems. During this time of low traffic, why haven’t State governments been out in force to fix the roads efficiently and cheaply? I’ve never seen a road crew violate what is now social distancing norms. It’s probably because they do not want to commit the resources, which might be used later.
Our Constitutional Republic has withstood many threats so far, mostly intact. Oh, you can argue about things like Lincoln and the banning of Habeus-Corpus, the establishment of the Federal Reserve (which is neither, BTW), Japanese Interment camps and the much-maligned Patriot Act. All are responses of flawed leadership to the crises and perceived “necessities” of the day. As a citizen, you have a duty to pay attention to what they are doing and why. If need be, groups of you have to assemble, either personally or now electronically to call attention to excesses and reign them in when they occur, if you can.
Karl Donaldson is an editor and writer for NRN. Partial to his two cats, he lives in New Hampshire with his wife and a veritable menagerie of his wife's creatures.