As we reach into the end of our third month in the Covid-19 quarantine, people are reaching into our Constitutional rights to reopen the economy. From mad militias at state capitals to lawsuits against stay-at-home orders, people feel their constitutional rights are being denied. Or are they?
In Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution the elastic clause makes all laws necessary and proper in executing all laws of the Constitution. It basically is a law that allows other laws to be made and used to execute governmental needs. There are several examples that have become personal for Americans that will be focused upon, the right to worship, access to public parks and the pursuit of happiness.
The First Amendment provides Americans with the freedom of religion. The ability to choose a religion, to live by its virtues and worship in a manner that is within the parameters of the chosen religions guidelines. If people aren’t allowed to go to church, is it really a violation of their First Amendment? In 1878 the Supreme Court decided in Reynolds v. United States that any action within worship could not violate the Law of the Land. If the elastic clause is the Constitutional law that states are using to enforce stay-at-home orders that include religious services, then there isn’t a violation of the First Amendment. States are merely invoking their legal use of the elastic clause to enforce rules that will protect the people. But that’s not so easily defended when people are still able to shop in non-essential stores. Big Box stores are open for shoppers to buy clothes, TVs, and housing goods. If a TV is essential then why isn’t worship? The actions of the stores and the shoppers are stretching the elastic clause to its breaking point.
Parks and recreational use of the outdoors are deemed a necessary mental and physical health issue. Since President Teddy Roosevelt there has been a battle for green space and public access. As parks are shut down across the nation, we are now very limited to greenspace use to promote a healthier lifestyle while shuttered in our houses. Doctors and park ambassadors believe the shutdown negatively impacts our health during the Covid-19 pandemic. If people need to be within 6 feet of each other to remain safe while wearing a mask, then a park with no roof or any means to trap breath and air around people to spread the contagion, should be safe right? At least 200 people can be shopping in some stores at one time with a menial system to clean the air. This may also be stretching the elastic clause a little too thin.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is an actual guideline stated in our Constitution. Everyone has a different means of pursuing their happiness but their liberties are the main focus. Liberties and rights are different in that liberties are tied to our rights but more like the choices we make. If an Illinois nurse wants to go to a bar in a Wisconsin, that’s her liberty to act upon her pursuit of happiness. If a business wants to open defying stay at home orders, they are pursuing their life. Their life is dependent on making money at their business. If you want to take the kids to the playground, then why can’t all of us as American citizens, invoke that liberty? These are merely examples of the many ways that stay-at-home orders and government shutdowns can negatively affect a generously structured Constitution. Though many of us are staying home to stay safe and healthy, if people want to invoke their own implied powers of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it’s actually against the law until the Supreme Court decides on the current actions.
The Law of the Land as stated in our Constitution’s elasticity clause provides for the government to enact all laws that pursue the safety and viability of our nation. It seems like a paradoxical proposition to shutter our businesses, parks, and churches but until the elasticity band breaks, you may be fined. In whatever decision you make today, base it on the CDCs guidelines to stay safe and healthy. You will have more time to debate our rights or the violation of during the Covid-19 pandemic if you stay alive.
New book-We The People: Policy For Progress a published collection of political solutions for the people. Look for it in the Kindle Bookstore.
And thank you for always taking the time to read Political Writes’ twice-weekly articles on Mondays and Thursdays. The more we know, the better we are prepared to make the future truly democratic.