This comes amid the ongoing debate, which has sparked protests across the country, over how far measures can go to protect public health before they are deemed a violation of constitutional rights and civil liberties.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who is leading this effort to push back on the stay-at-home restrictions, introduced a resolution in the House on Friday alleging that state and local leaders have “abused their authority by infringing on the constitutional rights of Americans, ordering private businesses to close, requiring citizens to stay in their homes, and imposing draconian punishments for violations.”
The measure is co-sponsored by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Ron Wright (R-Texas), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
The resolution notes the severity of the economic slump the stay-at-home orders have caused to Americans around the country, citing record unemployment, and an increasing demand for help from food banks, as well as a surge in reports of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence.
It also mentions the case of Shelley Luther, the Texas salon owner who was jailed and then released for defying the state’s stay-at-home order after she reopened her business amid the pandemic. The judge found her in contempt of the court and sentenced her to seven days in prison and a $500 daily fine. After much public outcry, Gov. Greg Abbott eliminated jail time as a consequence for violators of his orders.
The resolution also pointed to Michigan’s ban on the sale of gardening supplies as an example of Americans’ civil liberties being violated.
“The U.S. Constitution is just as relevant and worth protecting during a national crisis as it during times of peace. We cannot use the hysteria surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak to provide a pass to state and local leaders who are abusing their authority to shut down their economies, restrict the free movement of American citizens, and impose draconian penalties that far exceed the seriousness of the action,” Biggs said in a statement.
“I call on Attorney General Barr to continue reviewing these restricting orders and I call on Americans to stand united in the fight for their inherent rights.”
Barr has been vocal about the need to protect constitutional rights and civil liberties even during a public health crisis. The attorney general has previously said that while it is important that state and local officials put in broad measures to mitigate the spread of the pandemic at the beginning, these measures should be rolled back when the flow of cases begins to ebb. He said officials should then look into more targeted approaches.
He has also issued a memorandum directing federal prosecutors to “be on the lookout” for state and local restrictions that could be running afoul of the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.
In his memo, Barr said in the event an ordinance “crosses the line” between stopping the spread of the virus and violating constitutional and statutory protections, the DOJ “may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court.”
“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Barr said. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.
Multiple court challenges have been filed against governors over their executive orders that impose a variety of bans that are seen as an assault on civil liberties and individual rights in recent weeks. The Justice Department has filed Statement of Interests in two separate cases supporting churches who appeared to be singled out by measures imposed by their states banning drive-in services or in-person services.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request to comment on the new resolution.