Attorney Jeff Childers on Fighting Mask and Vaccine Mandates

Attorney Jeff Childers on Fighting Mask and Vaccine Mandates
Attorney Jeff Childers. (Amber Bertrand for The Epoch Times)
Jan Jekielek
Jeff Minick

“All of our rights come from the Creator,” says attorney Jeff Childers. “They don’t come from government. Our constitutional rights are supposed to be a reflection of our God-given freedoms.”

In a recent episode of EpochTV's “American Thought Leaders,” host Jan Jekielek speaks with Childers, a bankruptcy attorney in Gainesville, Florida, who found himself stunned by the sudden imposition of a mandatory mask mandate. He launched himself into constitutional law and got the first appellate decision in the country finding mandatory masking presumptively unconstitutional.

In the past two years, Childers has battled in the courtroom against vaccine mandates and “hospital kidnappings.” After many lawyers reached out to Childers for advice, he set up an informal network around the country to share information and to help them launch similar lawsuits in their states.

Jan Jekielek: You’ve become involved in litigation around many issues surrounding COVID. How did you get started?
Jeff Childers: I’m a commercial litigation attorney, which means I usually represent businesses. I’ve been doing that successfully for a long time. Then the pandemic came.

I was watching the first county commission meeting I had ever seen. When those commissioners passed the first countywide mandatory mask mandate in the state of Florida, something grabbed me in an almost spiritual way.

I looked at my wife and said, “There’s no way that’s constitutional. They can’t tell us we have to strap something to our faces. That’s insane.”

Now, I had never practiced constitutional or civil rights law in my entire career. I didn’t even know where to start.

But I fired off a demand letter to the county commission, hit the books, and within a week or two, I filed my first complaint against any government entity. I didn’t even know where to serve it. Who do you give it to, the mayor? I had to figure all that stuff out.

And as I do with any case with novel issues, I called my peers for advice. And every one of them said, “Jeff, why are you throwing your career away over this?” It was a real gut check. These are people I have profound respect for.

But I decided to push through and tackle it. And the result put me into the middle of the hurricane. We won. We won on appeal. We got the only appellate decision in the entire country, as far as I know, finding that mandatory masking was presumptively unconstitutional.

This was the summer of 2020, the peak of mask hysteria, and there were very few attorneys willing to take these cases.

We started to get all kinds of cases, and very quickly, we challenged the vaccines. On my first vaccine case, we won, as far as I know, the first broad preliminary injunction against the government vaccine mandate in the country. We got death threats over that one.

Mr. Jekielek: You said your first reaction was a spiritual experience. Why do you describe it that way?
Mr. Childers: I was an agnostic for most of my life, but in my early 40s, I had a spiritual experience. I started reading the Bible and going to church every weekend. It was a complete transformation.

I started to be more in tune with suggestions that I felt were coming from a divine source, that weren’t anything I would’ve thought of on my own. The idea, for example, that I would sue the government would’ve never occurred to me.

So I had this spiritual conviction that what was happening was morally and ethically wrong. All of our rights come from the Creator. They don’t come from government. Our constitutional rights are supposed to be a reflection of our God-given freedoms.

Mr. Jekielek: What did your wife think?
Mr. Childers: Michelle took up the cause and worked heroically at home. She was one of the original moms involved in the Moms for Liberty movement, for example, and she made countless phone calls and organized citizens who had never been politically active in their entire lives.

And that’s so remarkable. We’re seeing a revolution among the apolitical, among people who felt that if they minded their own business, did their job, took care of their kids, and participated in their community, everything would be fine. I don’t think they feel that way anymore. My wife is one of them.

Mr. Jekielek: What made people suddenly become so active?
Mr. Childers: A lot of people were shocked that the world didn’t work the way they thought it worked. It was an awakening, a profound experience, to have your worldview challenged so fundamentally. Then, to a lot of people, it seemed like the government came after the children. That flipped the switches of those protective instincts we have toward our kids.

When parents saw what their kids were being taught in those Zoom classes, it horrified them. Again, they had this worldview, which was shaped by how school was when they went to school. Reading, writing, arithmetic, class projects, Americana, that kind of thing. What they saw was completely different, and it just shredded their concept of ordered liberty.

Our public officials made horrible mistakes in the way they handled this pandemic. They made short-term expedient decisions to control an uncontrollable virus without considering the consequences. Sure, you can keep the folks locked down for a while, but they’re going to come out, and they’re going to see if those decisions made sense.

We’re entering that phase now, the phase of accountability in which people are saying, “Was it worth it?” And the folks who were responsible are at some point going to be held accountable for the decisions they made.

Mr. Jekielek: How many lawyers are doing this kind of work?
Mr. Childers: There are more lawyers now than there ever were, and that number is increasing. I’m aware of medium-sized firms becoming involved and taking on these hospital kidnapping cases.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you mean by that?
Mr. Childers: When COVID-19 hospitalizations were at their peak, many patients were entering the hospital for some completely different treatment, but were tested and admitted as COVID-19 patients and were put on a ventilator or given remdesivir against their wishes.

I can’t tell you how many calls we got from panicked relatives who wanted us to use the legal process to force hospitals to offer patients alternative treatments or let them go. And the hospitals wouldn’t do either one.

In one case, three corporate law firms were hired by a hospital to defend the hospital’s position and keep that patient in the hospital when all the relatives wanted to get him out. The hospital said he wasn’t sufficiently stable to move. The relatives said they were willing to sign whatever releases the hospital wanted. They wanted him off the ventilator and in a different facility. We had a facility that was willing to take him and a doctor who was willing to take over his care, but the hospital probably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting us to keep him in the hospital.

That’s what I call a hospital kidnapping case. It doesn’t make any sense. If you’re the patient and you don’t want them to treat you anymore, why can’t you make that decision in a free country?

Mr. Jekielek: A lot of people don’t believe there will be any accountability. What do you say to them?
Mr. Childers: I understand how they feel. It’s incredibly frustrating what has happened. It’s so obvious to many people that what happened was wrong. What we’ve seen in the past two years is that every major institution in this country has closed ranks to protect those wrongdoers. So that’s a legitimate concern. But that’s not how justice works. The wheels of justice move slowly, but they eventually will get there. I’ll give you a tangible example.

When I first started litigating with these COVID-19 cases, judges didn’t want to hear anything about it. They were totally close-minded. They have to run for election. What judge in the summer of 2020 wanted to be the anti-mask judge?

It’s different now. I got an oral ruling from a federal judge in the Pensacola division. He called out this hospital we were suing for their totally irrational vaccine mandate. He didn’t give me the relief I wanted, but he went on and on about how disgusted he was about this irrational policy. I couldn’t have gotten that during the first year of the pandemic.

We’re also seeing study after study critical of the vaccines and the masking. When you add them up, there’s a body of scholarship forming that’s outside the control of the government.

So when I go into court next year, I’m going to have more ammunition. When I started, I had nothing to work with. It was all just people’s hypotheses and what Dr. Anthony Fauci said. Now, I can point to all these studies. So there will be accountability. I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take. We’re up against well-organized, well-resourced opponents who aren't going to give in easily. They can slow it down, but they can’t hold it back forever. We will get accountability.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show "American Thought Leaders." Jekielek’s career has spanned academia, media, and international human rights work. In 2009, he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as website chief editor. He was an executive producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film "Finding Manny."