By S.T. Patrick
Nothing says praise and worship like the sound of a slot machine clinging and clanging like the percussion troupe backing a heavenly choir. Yet, a meeting of “evangelicals for Trump” was forced to meet at the Ahern Hotel and Convention Center, a Nevada casino, rather than a church building since Nevada has ordered all churches shuttered while casinos have opened for business. For harboring the creative efforts of the churchgoers, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) fined the casino a symbolic $250. This is just a slice of the madness 2020 has wrought against constitutional freedoms.
“I was deeply disheartened and dismayed to see the callous and dangerous behavior displayed last night in Las Vegas at a campaign event for President Trump,” Sisolak tweeted on Aug. 7. “I am equally dismayed that the campaign and business defied the state of Nevada emergency directive, which limits public gatherings to 50 people or fewer.” Churches have challenged Nevada’s order all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a one-page dissent after Calvary Chapel was denied the request for an injunction.
“In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion,” Gorsuch dissented. “Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”
Ground zero for pandemic hysteria is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California. The Golden State’s guidelines are perplexing, though they are purposely defined by the governor implementing them as “simple, stringent, and slow,” with “simple” remaining the arguable adjective. Rather than relying solely on numbers, Newsom has implemented a color-coded system that is controllable and vague in nature. It ranges in severity of concern from purple (the lightest) to yellow (the harshest). The system is impacted by case rates and test positivity results, which have now been proven to be inconclusive dependent upon the type and manufacturer of test given.
Residents of San Francisco, for example, must keep their faces covered throughout a majority of their meal in restaurants. San Franciscans have been legally bound to masks since April, a mandate Newsom enacted statewide. In most states, however, a diner must wear the mask into the restaurant and must wear it as they wait for a table, but then may remove it as they eat. If you are not in the act of putting food or drink into your mouth, the mask must be on. If you are talking to a spouse, a friend, or a date for a few minutes between bites, for example, the masks must be on.
The mandate reads, “[Customers] must wear face coverings any time they are not eating or drinking, including but not limited to: while they are waiting to be seated; while reviewing the menu and ordering; while socializing at a table waiting for their food and drinks to be served or after courses or the meal is complete; and any time they leave the table, such as to use a restroom. Customers must also wear face coverings any time servers, bussers, or other personnel approach their table.”
With every mandate enacted, there are consequences for those who do not follow it. In California, restaurants with continuing issues could receive “notices of violation” from the Department of Public Health. This could end in “suspension or revocation” of a restaurant’s ability to offer outdoor dining and may potentially end in closure.
In Nevada, the level of hypocrisy and confusion is as high as in neighboring California. While churches aren’t open but casinos are in Nevada, restaurants are under the strictest security while beaches remain open in California. Whatever brings the most revenue to the state will have preferential treatment. If it concerns individual rights that are largely unprofitable to the state, you are likely to fall under the umbrella of “Covid-related protections.”
In related news, the Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) does not have the constitutional authority to extend, or even declare, a statewide state of emergency in relation to Covid-19. Whitmer declared the state of emergency in March and then expanded it in April. Michigan Republicans and constitutionalists wondered where the limitations of governmental power ended. A 4-to-3 opinion by Michigan’s highest court stated that Whitmer did not have such powers.
Justice Stephen J. Markman, who wrote the majority opinion, stated: “We conclude that the governor lacked the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or a ‘state of disaster’ under the EMA [Emergency Management Act] after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we conclude that the EPGA [Emergency Powers of Governor Act] is in violation of the constitution of our state because it purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government—including its plenary police powers—and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely.”
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has not only tested the internal will and fortitude of the American people; it has tested the constitutional limits of state and federal power. States like California, New York, and Michigan have exercised that power with great range and confidence, with no regard for constitutional limitations of personal freedom. States like South Dakota have been cautious about implementing one-size-fits-all mandates. Until there is a national decision made that the country is out of this pandemic, politicians of all ideologies will continue to test the limits of their power and the courts will be asked to rule. All of this happens as millions of Americans remain isolated, unemployed, and struggling.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]. He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.