Justice Neil Gorsuch called government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic the “greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country” on Thursday.
Gorsuch made his comments in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Thursday dismissal of a case dealing with red states’ attempt to keep in place a Trump administration policy, Title 42, which allowed the U.S. to expel over 2.5 million migrants from the border due to a public health emergency. In an eight-page long statement attached to the decision, Gorsuch slammed an array of emergency power abuses employed by local leaders during the pandemic, from lockdowns to church closures.
“Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale,” he said. “Governors and local leaders imposed lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. They shuttered businesses and schools, public and private. They closed churches even as they allowed casinos and other favored businesses to carry on.”
Turning to the federal government, Gorsuch called out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirement that employers impose vaccine mandates and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium while hinting that federal agencies were complicit in censoring the public.
“Along the way, it seems federal officials may have pressured social-media companies to suppress information about pandemic policies with which they disagreed,” he said.
Gorsuch slammed deference to “experts” for decision-making during the pandemic and warned that doing so could lead to losing “many cherished civil liberties.”
“One lesson might be this: Fear and the desire for safety are powerful forces,” he said. “They can lead to a clamor for action — almost any action — as long as someone does something to address a perceived threat. A leader or an expert who claims he can fix everything, if only we do exactly as he says, can prove an irresistible force. Along the way, we will accede to the loss of many cherished civil liberties — the right to worship freely, to debate public policy without censorship, to gather with friends and family, or simply to leave our homes.”
“We may even cheer on those who ask us to disregard our normal lawmaking processes and forfeit our personal freedoms,” he continued.
During a remote address to the Federalist Society in November 2020, Justice Samuel Alito similarly said that the pandemic “has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.”
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Too little, too late as usual.