Maryland's Hogan Claims Refusing to Wear a Mask Isn't ‘Constitutional Right’

Maryland's Hogan Claims Refusing to Wear a Mask Isn't ‘Constitutional Right’
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talks to reporters during a news briefing about the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic in front of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Md., on April 17, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Matthew Vadum

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan likened those who refuse to wear face masks during the current pandemic to drunk drivers, declaring that no one has a “constitutional right to walk around without a mask”—a claim disputed by a legal expert.

The Republican governor made the statement at a Nov. 23 press conference as Marylanders were preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 26, and days after the state reported its second-highest daily increase of new coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, bringing the cumulative statewide total to just under 180,000.
“It’s sort of like saying ‘I have a constitutional right to drive drunk.’ ‘I have a constitutional right to not wear a seat belt,’ or to yell fire in a crowded movie theater, or to not follow the speed limit,” he said, adding that many have already died from the CCP virus that causes the occasionally lethal disease COVID-19.

“There’s no constitutional right to walk around without a mask,” Hogan said. “Wear the mask.”

Facial mask-wearing, which has been mandated in Maryland for several months already, is still required in all indoor public locations and outdoors where social distancing isn't possible.

“High visibility compliance units” from the Maryland State Police will be attending at businesses to make sure pandemic restrictions are being observed, Hogan said. He encouraged Marylanders to report those flouting social-distancing rules and related restrictions to state police on a 24/7 telephone line or by email.

A constitutional lawyer took issue with Hogan’s claim that refusing to wear a face mask isn't a right protected by the U.S. Constitution, calling it “ridiculous,” and saying “there are numerous problems with it [i.e. the mask mandate] that implicate constitutional rights.”

Hogan’s assertion is “absolute nonsense,” said Christopher Ferrara, special counsel to the Thomas More Society, a public-interest law firm.

The requirement to wear a mask runs afoul of the First Amendment because it is “compelled expression,” as well as “compelled participation in a medical experiment,” Ferrara told The Epoch Times in an interview.

“That’s a direct attack on bodily integrity and autonomy.”

Moreover, “there is no evidence that these masks do anything,” Ferrara said, referencing a recent mask study from Denmark that was published Nov. 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study, a large randomized clinical trial, questions the conventional wisdom that masks prevent community spread.

“You have the Danish study now, you have other studies that all show that not only that they do nothing but they become vectors of viral spread because they become contaminated,” he said.

“You’re actually risking your health by wearing these stupid things all day long, and everybody reuses them, they keep in their pockets, their cup holders, their glove compartments. They wear the same mask day in and day out just to get into the stores they want to patronize. Nobody’s following the proper protocols for wearing them.”

“It’s a charade,” Ferrara added, “and so to compel people to engage in conduct that could affect their health against their will, poses an obvious constitutional issue.”

Donny Ferguson, a former congressional aide and president of the nonprofit Americans for a Better Economy, said masks “work” and that “everyone should wear them,” but said in his opinion “government has no legitimate power to compel behavior from peaceful people.”

“A mask mandate will absolutely be enforced most harshly on those without political influence,” he said.

“There are already statutes against assault and willfully spreading disease that can be used against people we’ve seen intentionally coughing, puffing, or spitting on others.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Hogan’s office for a comment but didn't receive an immediate response.