As the global coronavirus pandemic came home to roost here in the United States, a strange debate began to seep into our everyday lives: Could the government legally force us to take safety precautions against it?
The issue wasn’t so much that these Americans didn’t want to do their part to help curb the spread of the virus, but that the government believed that they could arbitrarily decide what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of our behavior. You see, Americans have been wary of doing what the government says from all the way back at the Boston Tea Party, and we don’t have any intention of changing now.
So, as governors, mayors, and other local leaders pushed their constituents to stay home, wear a mask, or shutter their businesses, a rage grew. Legal challenges began to spring up as well, and soon these newfound ordinances had their day in court.
And boy, what a day they had.
A federal judge on Monday struck down Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions that required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down, calling them unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders who sued as individuals.
Stickman, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote in his ruling that the Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights.
The governor’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” Stickman wrote. “But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”
One can only imagine that this ruling will ripple throughout other locales in the coming days.