COVID-19 Lockdown: When Is a Right Not a Right?

  • Post category:Opinion

When the Governor is Wrong…

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Regardless of whether you support the current COVID-19 risk-management policies around the country, Americans have the right to petition the courts when they feel that their rights have been abrogated. This has hit very close to home in my state of Pennsylvania.

As many of you know, we are included in the “Gang of Five” governors who are “exposing” themselves as dictators through executive orders during the coronavirus crisis. Along with Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and California, Pennsylvania has offered the most restrictive and least research-driven approaches to this lockdown.

The state rollout in Pennsylvania was dubious from the beginning. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state population centers, were among the first hit by the virus, yet travel restrictions on travel in those areas were basically non-existent. A crackdown was then implemented that basically put the entire state under house arrest, including counties with few or no COVID-19 cases. This one-size-fits-all approach is devastating to small businesses, the working poor, and essential/expendable workers as defined by Gov. Wolf and his administration.

The Pennsylvania Problem

A major issue with individual rights occurred when the governor created a wavier list of companies allowed to remain open, even though they did not meet the essential/expendable criteria he created. This abuse of power is so reminiscent of the pork-barrel politics of the 1980s that even the state General Assembly is working on legislation to declassify the list. Many are curious as to why it was made private in the first place.

One of the most worrisome elements of this power grab, however, was brought to light by Pittsburgh-area Republican state rep. candidate Danny DeVito. In his lawsuit, DeVito (no relation to the actor) claimed that the stay-at- home order for healthy Pennsylvanians was an abrogation of the First Amendment right to assemble (among other constitutional rights). The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled against DeVito and others, but the case was quickly accepted by Justice Alito of the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a potential stay of the order.

Gov. Wolf response to the federal petition filed by DeVito and four other parties should give chills to any American. In addition to opposing the petition on other legal grounds, Wolf’s legal team apparently told the court that since DeVito had a strong social media presence, he had an alternative to assembling. Think of this for a moment; a governor who is sworn to defend the Constitution is making the argument that if an alternative exists, rights are not longer rights. This is a very dangerous precedent.

Constitutional or Coercion?

Making this argument even more damning is that Wolf knows that most of the social media companies are under scrutiny for suppressing non-liberal speech. These progressive platform owners are aggressively seeking to ban people from speaking their minds. Congress and the courts stand mum as millions of Americans are denied their freedom-of-speech rights each day.

This matter should be national news, but complacent media pundits are ignoring it because it does not fit the narrative. News needs to reported rather than created or disregarded.

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In this case, Wolf quarantines a whole state without due process, the courts silence the petitioners and deny their rights to assemble, and the Fourth Estate (as the news media is alternatively known) cheers on their tyranny because it gets clicks. Regardless of your position on the lockdown, this case deserves to be heard and the rights of all Americans, which are effectively on trial, need to be protected. If the US Supreme Court will not protect the rights contained in the Constitution, what use do we have for a legal system that has given up on the law?

Christopher W Smithmyer
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