Dozens of sheriffs across the country are refusing to enforce stay-at-home orders because of their unconstitutional nature.
Sheriff Brent Waak of Polk County, Wisconsin made national headlines last month when he announced that he wouldn’t enforce the state’s stay-at-home order because he respects his constituents’ “fundamental rights.”
“I believe the extension of the safer at home order that was set to expire on April 24, 2020 is an overreach of the state government. As your sheriff, I have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Wisconsin. I have always respected the civil liberties of the citizens of Polk County,” Waak said in an April 21 statement.
Sheriffs all over the country have now followed Waak’s lead, including at least one other Wisconsin sheriff.
“I took an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens, and I cannot in good faith participate in the destruction of Racine County businesses or interfere in the freedoms granted to all of us by our Constitution,” Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said.
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the state’s lockdown measures in a 4 to 3 decision.
In the state that borders Wisconsin, four Michigan sheriffs representing counties in the northern portion of the state released a joint statement in April to announce that they wouldn’t enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order.
“While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” the sheriffs of Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee, and Mason counties said. “She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens.”
The sheriffs said they consider themselves the “last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties.”
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco of California said during a May 5 meeting of the county’s board of supervisors that he can’t enforce an executive order that makes “criminals out of business owners.”
“Not only do we not have the resources to enforce unreasonable orders, I refuse to make criminals out of business owners, single moms, and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights,” Bianco said. “There cannot be a new normal. We are talking about a country formed on the fundamental freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any new normal is a direct attack on those basic rights which set us apart and make us the greatest country in the world.”
In Arizona, Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb are refusing to enforce unconstitutional executive orders.
“We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Lamb said in a recent interview. “Part of life is going out and being able to work and provide for your family. That’s being inhibited right now.”
One Alabama sheriff sent a letter directly to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to inform her that he wouldn’t arrest anyone for going to church or work.
“In recognition of those individual rights, while we respect the governor’s order, we don’t want to overstep the boundaries of any individual and simply put them in jail because they were trying to make a living or go into a house of worship to worship,” said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Mack – the second sheriff in Alabama who has refused to enforce the governor’s order.
Tazewell County Sheriff Jeffrey Lower of Illinois said he has consistently argued throughout the pandemic that the governor “cannot create law.”
“What he has mandated are executive orders. Nothing in them give me or my office any authority in law and I will not enforce them,” he said. “I will continue to fight against what I believe is a violation of our constitutional rights. We the People are not just words on a paper. They represent sacrifices that were fought and died for to give us the rights and privileges through the Constitution.”
Another Illinois sheriff said some parts of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order violated his “statutory rights as sheriff to control the internal operations of” his agency.
“I swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Illinois, and in my opinion, enforcing the executive order would cause me to go against the very principles I swore to protect,” said Douglas County Sheriff Joshua Blackwell.
At least two sheriffs in Washington state said they are done with Gov. Jay Inslee’s order, including Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney and Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond.
“As your elected sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion,” Fortney said in a statement. “We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination. The impacts of COVID-19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “COVID-19 Protests” by GoToVan. CC BY 2.0.