It has become very unpopular to suggest that a person can be concerned about more than one thing at a time. That is unfortunate really. The inability of people to engage in civil discourse has been declining for some time and unfortunately it seems as if a virus will claim that as it’s largest victim. There are some things that should be said though, so I am going to say them.
The truth is that it is possible to be concerned about the pandemic, be concerned about the economy, and be concerned about civil liberties all at the same time. Go figure. Let me start with the first unpopular thought. No, churches should not be meeting in large gatherings at this time. There is no denying that truth I think. Yes, churches should be free to do so, even if it is a fundamentally stupid action. I get it, the immediate push back it that somehow people doing this puts you at danger. What danger? If what people are saying is correct, it is likely that a high percentage of these folks are infected anyway, so the increased risk is not so great. If you are practicing the social distancing guidelines and such, then you are basically as safe as you were before. The idea that fining people for attending a drive in church service with windows up is absolutely insane, especially as the parking lot at your local grocery doesn’t have that restriction. (Read here) In this case, all the guidelines were followed, yet citations were still issued. The simplest and best solution is allow churches to remain free while encouraging churches to do what is both responsible and morally correct. In Louisiana, a pastor was arrested for holding services. On commentator went so far as to call for churches being padlocked, or taken over by the National Guard (Read Here). Pandemic or not, this is not what a free and civil society should look like. Should they be meeting? No. Should they be free to meet? Absolutely.
It is possible to believe that the social distancing practices are necessary and at the same time be concerned over the draconian nature of some orders and the potential violations of normal government operation. We have a separated government (3 branches) for a reason. In Ohio, Governor DeWine tried to postpone primary voting. It did not go terribly well. (Read Here). When that did not work, he had Dr. Acton issue a public health order to do it anyway. (Read Here). Yes, it is possible to be very concerned about COVID and simultaneously be concerned about the Governor taking an end around the courts to impose his will on the citizens. The Constitution is clear that the power over elections is vested in the legislator. This was an over reach. It is not only possible to be concerned about that also, but, in my not often humble enough opinion, necessary. Our system of government was not set up to be discarded in a crisis, but to protect those things that are fundamental to liberty, especially in a crisis.
To go along with the above, despite being assured that they would only be fined for social distancing orders, three New York City residents were arrested over the first weekend in April and charged with obstructing governmental administration, unlawful assembly, and disorderly conduct. Oddly enough, the conditions in most jails are exactly the opposite of what the Governors orders suggest, so in order to enforce social distancing, they will put you in cramped quarters, increasing your chances of catching, or passing on the virus, and then fine you for it on top of that, possibly with jail time. Make sense? (Read Here) A man in Malibu was arrested for paddle boarding in the ocean. Let that sink in…in the ocean. He was charged with suspicion of disobeying a lifeguard (that’s a thing I guess) and violating the state order. He could face six months in jail and/or a fine if found guilty. For paddle boarding alone in the ocean. The reality is that the police were the only ones not social distancing as they led him away in handcuffs. A surfer on Manhattan Beach was arrested for surfing alone. In the ocean. Not putting anyone at risk. (Read Here) A couple in Lakewood New Jersey faces child endangerment charges for holding a gathering that violated the orders. (Read Here) The intent of these orders was supposed to be safety, and all to often they are being used as additions to other charges. Perhaps the fines will replace those generated by traffic stops, but that is a different rabbit hole. Some cities are now using drones to enforce the stay at home orders. (Read Here) (Read Here) There is a lot to be worried about when that is going on…all while still being concerned about COVID.
Numerous reports about dangers to the global food supply have been raised. (read here) The economic impact of this is being felt and is known. It’s not good and only expected to get worse. You can be concerned about these things and COVID. Pushing to start to reopen economies with reasonable precautions is not irresponsible, or against science. It is listening to what all of the information is telling us. I don’t want grandma to die of COVID as I was recently accused of. I dont want her to starve either.
Finally there is my last concern, and in many ways it is the biggest concern. There is a media narrative, and sometimes a governmental one as well, that is not terribly accurate all in all, and has created in many ways want are called the COVID truthers. Instead of going into all of it, I will highly suggest that you take the time to read this carefully.
I want to switch to speaking about my home state for a little bit. Governor DeWine deserves credit for taking early action regarding the COVID situation. Looking back on things, there is little denying that. His actions likely made things less severe here than they could have been. His actions proved wise. The reality though is that wisdom does not mean legal, or constitutional. “Good” does not mean constitutional or legal, just as “Bad” does not mean illegal. In a constitutional republic such as ours, the question of constitutionality is just as important, and maybe more so ultimately, as the wisdom of the actions. In Ohio, the justification for stay at home orders, etc. hinges upon section 3701.13 of the Ohio Revised Code. An Ohio Supreme Court ruling provides the ability of the Department of Health to quarantine people infected with, or having direct exposure to, certain contagious diseases. Not a terribly bad move all in all. The law has never been used to isolate healthy people in uninfected environments however, so there are some serious questions as to it’s legality. The Ohio Supreme Court has also ruled that the protection of the public health is not a blank check to override established law. The Constitution protects travel between states for travels sake, and also for the purchasing of goods. DeWine has restricted both. Does he have the authority to? Do forced business closures violate the due process clause? These are very real and very important questions that not only should be raised, but that must be raised. During the Dust Bowl era, California denied the “okies”. A situation such as that must be avoided again. Governor DeWine exempted religious gatherings from his orders which solves any potential “free exercise” issues, but may have violated the speech clause preventing discrimination against, or in favor of, religious speech. This matters.
Freedom is messy. It is dangerous. It will be abused by some without a doubt. Freedom relies on people to use it, and restrain themselves, responsibly, so the truth is that sometimes it will seem to fail because we, as humans, sometimes fail. That is just the truth of it. As I have tried to communicate, a part of the responsibility of freedom, is being able to be concerned about the COVID virus, as well as other matters, simultaneously, and then making logical, evidenced based decisions based upon those mutual concerns. It’s not about one or the other, it is about a holistic view of all that is transpiring and trying to make the best decisions, not a myopic view singularly focused. I know that there is a temptation to think of people like me as the crazy outliers that don’t fully understand. I know it’s easy to call us conspiracy nuts (even though I have demonstrated no conspiracy here), or to be science deniers (even though I believe strongly in evidenced based conclusions based upon known data). I get it. There are however so many people focused on COVID and stopping it at all costs, that maybe, just maybe, you need a few of those people like me who believe that the single most dangerous thing to the republic is not a virus, but rather the loss of those things that the Declaration Of Independence call unalienable and endowed by our creator, to be a bit of a counter balance so that when this passes, and it will as all things pass, there is something resembling a republic left. Democracy never dies from external factors, but internal ones. I very much believe that our nation in this time must make decisions based upon both science and virtue. That is exactly why I am so concerned about freedom. As Jefferson said about science and virtue, “a nation will be great in both always in proportion as it is free”.