The lawsuit suggests that requiring Washingtonians to wear face masks in public is unconstitutional and oppressive.
The Freedom Foundation is suing Washington state over a recently enacted order requiring residents to wear face masks in public.
According to KOMO News, Washington requires mask use both in public places and in private businesses. While state Gov. Jay Inslee says he expects most residents to comply without threat of consequence, enforcement of penalties for refusing to wear masks remains an option.
“We don’t want to have enforcement of this,” Inslee said last week. “Ideally, there won’t be any criminal or civil sanctions for individuals.”
However, the Freedom Foundation has questioned whether state Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman have sufficient constitutional authority to enact and enforce such rules.
Their lawsuit, notes KOMO, requests an injunction against the order’s enforcement.
“The face-covering directive is the definition of government overreach,” said Freedom Foundation director Aaron With. “If people choose to wear a mask, that’s their choice. But Inslee is going after otherwise law-abiding citizens when there are rioters destroying Washington’s cities such as Seattle, with no punishment in sight.”
A U.S. airmen testing an N95 mask. Image via: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes. Public domain.
KOMO says the lawsuit condemns the alleged health benefits of face mask usage as “junk science.”
Shella Sadovnik, the Freedom Foundation’s litigation counsel, further suggested that the state Department of Health lacks the necessary latitude to carry out Inslee’s order.
“The Secretary of Health does not have sweeping power to pass rules and regulations imposing criminal penalties for refusing to kneel in submission,” Sadovnik said. “And the governor cannot assume powers the constitution assigns to the legislature or the judiciary.”
Despite what Sadovnik and the Freedom Foundation say, numerous scientific studies have shown that face mask usage likely prevents the rapid transmission of novel coronavirus. Face masks may be effective in preventing COVID-positive but otherwise asymptomatic individuals from spreading the disease silently; it is less certain whether mask usage can prevent individual acquisition of coronavirus from an unmasked person or static surface.
Gov. Inslee, however, appears to have expected some resistance to his order—likely because conservative action groups have aggressively sued states with stay-at-home orders or mask mandates.
Inslee, adds The Tacoma News Tribune, said mask mandates are recommended by many people, from politicians to high-ranking members of the U.S. armed forces and health care professionals.
“Well, I don’t think General Jim Mattis, Mike Pence, Congressman Dan Newhouse, many doctors, police chiefs, all the mayors and county commissioners I met with this morning would be say, “Let’s go violate the constitution,” Inslee said at a press conference.
“Look,” Inslee said. “This is a pandemic. It is killing people, and we have a community response. And only a community response can be successful, so we have to act together, and that’s what we’re doing.”
“This is simply a response to a very, very deadly disease, and there’s nothing in the constitution that says we should surrender our loved ones to a virus,” he added. “There’s just nothing that says that. No court has said any of these things are unconstitutional or illegal. They just have not.”
Inslee also noted that Washington has faced “multiple” lawsuits against its coronavirus response, including accusations that its stay-at-home order was unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful.
“Not one [injunction] has been granted,” Inslee said.
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