Americans have been doing a fantastic job following the coronavirus guidance of the president, their governors and perhaps also their local leaders when it comes to social distancing and taking precautions not just for ourselves and our own health, but for those around us.
Yet, lo and behold, certain politicians have mistaken our willingness to adhere to social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines as a signal that they can do whatever they please.
We now see various mayors and governors using this time of crisis to issue extraordinary, and as many see it, unconstitutional orders in the name of public health and safety during this time of pandemic.
The unleashing of little tyrants in a time of crisis is not unusual. But now is the time for good citizens to make a point of recognizing the difference between reasonable guidance on issues such as social distancing, not going to work if you’re sick, proper hygiene like the regular washing of our hands and avoiding large gatherings versus unconstitutional restrictions on our freedom.
We are adults, we understand the suggestions we’ve been given, proven by the overwhelming adherence to the federal guidelines in the midst of this crisis. We also know when orders are inappropriate at the very least, and unconstitutional abuses of power at the worst.
Consider the church in Greenville, Mississippi, whose members were, as the Washington Examiner reported, “given $500 tickets by local authorities for sitting in their cars in the church parking lot listening to a sermon from their pastor on the radio during the coronavirus pandemic. … Police officers arrived and started handing out $500 tickets to people who didn’t disperse in adherence to social distancing guidelines.”
The pastor of that church is now suing the city of Greenville, telling Fox News that he hopes the mayor takes action to lift the penalties. Moreover, in the midst of other reports of governors attempting to ban even drive-in church services, Attorney General William P. Barr noted last week the Department of Justice would be “taking action,” and it has.
Fox News reported, “The Justice Department intervened in a Mississippi church’s lawsuit by saying in a court filing that it ‘strongly suggests that the city’s actions target religious conduct. … This case raises issues of national public importance regarding the interplay between the government’s compelling interest in protecting public health and safety from COVID-19 and citizens’ fundamental right to free exercise of religion,’ the filing states.”
It makes sense for Americans to avoid large gatherings, but the effort to punish people who are alone in their cars with the windows rolled up, as though that is somehow a threat to other people’s health, is absurd.
But the apparent abuse of power isn’t limited to church parking lots. People reacted with some shock when video from Italy revealed a lone jogger along an empty beach being chased by a police officer. But it would be wrong to dismiss that as unique European totalitarianism.
Recently, a lone paddle boarder in Malibu was pursued while he paddle-boarded on an abandoned ocean at an empty beach. The Los Angeles Times reported, “The man, who is not identified by authorities, eventually made his way to the beach where he was arrested on suspicion of disobeying a lifeguard and violating Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay at home order, a misdemeanor. Photographs from the same show the man in handcuffs being led down the beach by two deputies. He faces a fine of $1,000 or six months in jail.”
The threat to put people in jail for violating an order to stay away from other people is an irony not lost on any of us. It is also a perfect illustration of just how absurd government at every level can become.
Other shocking video has alarmed the public, including the scene of 10 Philadelphia police officers dragging a passenger off a bus for not wearing a face mask, as noted by the National Review which also tells us of a scene in Brighton, Colorado, with “cops handcuffing a father in front of his family for playing T-ball with his daughter in an empty park.”
Getting a great deal of attention, appropriately, in the follies of Governors As Little Tyrants, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer has been getting a lot of attention. Tucker Carlson at Fox News said many hospitals in Michigan are “now discharging more coronavirus patients than they’re admitting. In fact, an emergency hospital under construction outside Detroit has slashed its bed count from 1,000 to 250. Why? The expected number of patients failed to arrive.”
He then noted that Ms. Whitmer has not only not acknowledged this, but she is doubling down on her efforts to control the movement and freedom of the people of Michigan.
“Last week, Witmer banned all gatherings anywhere for any reason of any size including in people’s private homes, as if she is allowed to do that,” Mr. Carlson said. She has also banned people from traveling between their own homes.
Part of her announcement of the increasing crackdown included, “Big box stores will also have to close areas of the store that are dedicated to things like carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, or paint. If you’re not buying food, or medicine, or other essential items you shouldn’t be going to the store.”
How is purchasing paint, or gardening tools, or seeds to plant your own food during a pandemic “unessential?” Who gets to decide that becomes a question all of us should ask. Few of us believe politicians know best in that case.
It is our responsibility as responsible citizens to implement sensible and productive efforts, such as the federal coronavirus guidelines, to slow and eventually stop this pandemic. And we are doing exactly that. But what we will not agree to is the torching of the U.S. Constitution or the destruction of the country by people who seem drunk on unconstitutional power they imagine is afforded to them in a crisis.
• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.