This time each year, we honor the Constitution of the United States. This foundational document, created September 17, 1787, and the Bill of Rights that quickly amended it have safeguarded the freedom of Americans for more than two centuries. However, over the years, it has been further modified, misinterpreted, and even ignored entirely. As I wrote last year in remembrance of the Republic, “the United States they created was not quite the nation we know today.” And in this, the first year CE (COVID Era), that statement rings truer than any of us could have imagined this time last year.
From the lockdowns and business closures to the mask-wearing and social distancing ordinances, leaders at all levels of government across the nation have been flexing their authoritarian muscles since the pandemic declaration. As seems to always be the case, the crisis was quickly used to justify more government authority in the lives of the people – for our own good, of course. Ostensibly this is temporary – but is it? When was the last time the government took more power for itself to see us through a crisis – whether the government solution worked or not – and then actually relinquished that power?
In the COVID Era, we have thousands of private businesses closed and millions of Americans living off government benefits. Schools are finally reopening and some of the unemployed are returning to work, but at what cost? Many schools have pushed parents out of the equation as much as possible, and some colleges are holding education hostage by requiring students surrender more of their freedoms than ever before. As Liberty Nation’s Laura Valkovic explained in August, one college in Michigan requires every student to install an app that tracks their location and reports them if they leave campus. Another Michigan institution wants students to wear a device that measures vital signs and comes with a handy Bluetooth contact-tracing feature.
This grasping for control should come as no surprise from the bastion of statist thought that is American academia. The real shock should be the Supreme Court – the body tasked with interpreting the Constitution and whether laws are in compliance with it – ruling against a church in what seems like a clear-cut violation of the First Amendment.
Steve Sisolak, the Democrat governor of Nevada, decided that churches could only seat 50 people at most, while casinos were free to operate at 50% capacity. Calvary Chapel offered to exceed the state recommendations for social distancing, if only they were allowed the same capacity as the casinos. With a sanctuary capable of seating 200 worshipers, Calvary Chapel wants simply to allow a maximum of 90, sitting 6 feet apart from each other and wearing masks. But the governor wouldn’t allow it, and the Supreme Court refused to help. As Liberty Nation’s Scott D. Cosenza wrote at the time, “Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley thought the Constitution would give them the same rights at least that casinos had. Four justices agreed, but only four, and so the churches must turn away their flock as bets are placed across town.”
As the year wears on, many wonder when – indeed, if – life will ever get back to normal. Some say that this or something like this may very well be the new normal. Those are dire warnings that must not go ignored. We know that governments have a tendency to gobble up more power and grow at every opportunity, but what can we do to stop it? Treasure Coast News, a USA Today affiliate out of Florida, has a wise suggestion for how to celebrate Constitution Day 2020: Remember and read the Constitution. Heck, don’t stop there. Read the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence as well – then read the various letters and speeches of our Founding Fathers. Don’t allow the promise of government security erase the memory of what they fought for. Last year, I concluded that “In spite of those who would gladly trade individual liberty (and responsibility) for the security and care of the government, we haven’t entirely fallen back to being serfs to the crown … yet.”
This year, I am beginning to wonder.
Read more from James Fite.