COVID restrictions cannot exceed constitutional rights

By Chuck Norris

If you’ve never heard his name, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. is an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court – one of nine justices. He was nominated to the seat by President George W. Bush and has been serving there since January 2006.

Alito previously had an extensive legal career from 1976 as assistant U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, assistant to the solicitor general, deputy assistant attorney general and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Alito was born on April 1, 1950, raised in New Jersey and educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School. He married Martha-Ann Bomgardner in 1985 and has two children – Philip and Laura. He is the 110th justice appointed to the highest court of the land as well as the second Italian American and the 11th Roman Catholic to serve there.

For the past 15 years, throughout the terms of three U.S. presidents and the ebbs and flows of liberal and conservative movements, Alito has faithfully served our country. His wisdom and knowledge have helped to preserve our constitutional republic.

Last Thursday, Justice Alito shared some critical commentary that I think every American needs to hear and heed. Regardless of where we all land in the polarities of how our country should handle, manage and reduce the COVID-19 virus, we must simultaneously adhere to every principle in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. That was at the heart of Alito’s message.

Reuters reported, Justice Alito “told a meeting of the Federalist Society late on Thursday he was not underplaying the severity of the [COVID-19] crisis or criticizing any officials for their response.”

Nevertheless, he explained: “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

He added: “The COVID crisis has served as sort of a constitutional stress test.”

As a primary example, Alito pointed to federal and state governments inhibiting free speech and the free exercise of religion as expressed within the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Alito expressed: “Although that freedom [of speech] is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right.”

He added: “Think of worship services! Churches closed on Easter Sunday, synagogues closed for Passover and Yom Kippur. It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”

And as I wrote in past columns, shutting down religious communities is not only unconstitutional but actually adds to our health crises by over 100,000 “deaths of despair,” according to Harvard science studies. Casinos and commerce are not even given the special rights of faith centers and citizens. That is an important reflection as we approach upcoming sacred holidays.

Government is not the source of our rights – God is. According to our founding documents, it is also not the government’s duty or responsibility to provide, mandate or legislate health care in any respect; it is the responsibility of “We the people” to care for our own.

America’s founders drafted the Bill of Rights to draw boundaries and protect American citizens from government overreach. Whatever pandemic solutions are drafted and proposed should not encroach upon or usurp these fundamentals of American life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I encourage my readers to watch Justice Alito’s entire address to the Federalist Society here. It is a marvelous education and challenge in constitutional liberties, especially in light of our present COVID crisis. At the same time, you might rediscover the beauty in your Bill of Rights.

Justice Alito is not a medical expert or health care practitioner. He’s not trying to be. He’s a constitutional scholar. And his job is to interpret constitutional law in light of the legal way American life is carried out by its citizens and governments.

Alito didn’t create the rules; our founders did. His commentary, as well as those from the other eight justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, should always uphold and align with our founders’ tenets as well as our rights. While critics accuse him of partisan politics and being too conservative, Justice Alito is simply exercising his own free speech (critics’ commentary only reveals their ignorance of the First Amendment).

Consider how Alito’s words are in harmony with key Founding Fathers and presidents, who represent the spirit and sentiment of the other framers regarding Americans’ liberties and limited government:

John Adams, our country’s second president, said these things about the relation of government to citizens’ rights and liberties:

  • “Liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments.”
  • “[People have] rights … antecedent to all earthly governments – rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws.”
  • “Each individual of the society has a right to be protected … in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property … no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent.”
  • “In a free state, every man … ought to be his own governor.”

Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, was passionate about limited government, according to

Jefferson also felt that the central government should be “rigorously frugal and simple.” As president he reduced the size and scope of the federal government. … Limiting the federal government flowed from his strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Finally, Jefferson also committed his presidency to the protection of civil liberties and minority rights. As he explained in his Inaugural Address in 1801, “though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

And ponder these few thoughts about limited government from James Madison, our fourth president and he who is also called “The father of the Bill of Rights“:

“[T]he general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws: its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.” – James Madison, Federalist 14, 1787

“It will not be denied that power is of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.” – James Madison, Federalist 48, 1788

Of course, I didn’t write all the preceding so we would drop COVID precautions and safety measures. On the contrary, we should bear the burdens of ours and our loved ones’ health and well-being; we don’t and shouldn’t need government mandates to care for our own households. I’ve written several articles about COVID safety and health care in my C-Force health & fitness column, and I encourage you to read them. Justice Alito and I are merely saying we must uphold all of our constitutional rights and liberties while maintaining the fight for our health. It’s not the government’s job to mandate or legislate that. It’s yours and mine.

A far better solution would be for our households and even local communities to gather together to discuss the best approach to manage and reduce our community’s degree of COVID outbreak, since they vary with such great degrees across towns, cities, counties and states. We delegate or defer that responsibility by default to federal and state government officials to our own detriment. Not a single Founding Father would agree with such government solutions. In fact, I believe, the dissolution of America’s local communities and care for one another can be directly traced as a consequence of government overreach and enabling.

You’ve heard President Trump say repeatedly about COVID-19, “the cure cannot be worse than the disease itself.” Well, I say, COVID restrictions cannot be more than our constitutional rights to exercise our liberties. To exceed them is to dissolve our democracy, too.

George Washington couldn’t have worded it any better than he did in his 1789 Inaugural Address: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

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