Attorney David Di Pietro appeared on Newsmax TV to discuss constitutional issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. One of these specific issues involves people in the State of Mississippi who were ticketed due to attending church during a state ordered lockdown.
David provides his expert legal opinion on whether or not some of the manners in which the lockdown is enforced infringes on the constitutional rights of Americans. See the full news story below.
“The government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.”
“Yeah, a lot of questions about that, joining us now is David Di Pietro, he is a constitutional attorney. I want to dive right into it, does the Attorney General guidance that we just read settle this issue, or do you expect states to continue this overreach we’ve seen?
David: “Well I think Attorney General Barr was spot on. All of our rights are not ‘absolute rights’. The right to free speech, doesn’t allow you to go into a movie theater and scream “fire”, so there’s always a balancing act between rights, and where our rights can infringe on other people’s rights. So we are dealing with COVID-19, so obviously interacting with other people can affect the population as a whole, so there’s a balancing act.
What was happening in Mississippi, where the Attorney General was spot on, is they were allowing other gatherings, like going to a drive through for food, they were treating that differently, ie “equal protection”, then they were treating the churches. They were interfering with the right to practice one’s religion, when the religious organization was within the guidelines probligated by the states, so the state was, or the city, was treating the religious institution unfairly, as compared to other institutions. So is why that statement of interest was filed by the Department of Justice, and them intervening, because they want to make the point that, ‘yes, you can balance rights, but you can’t treat one group differently than the other, and in particular when it’s a religious organization, which has a special right under our Constitution.”
“Right, clearly we are seeing the cars spread out from each other, these people were staying in their cars, they weren’t interacting with each other, so your argument of course is very fair, but is there a time David when people might have to sacrifice some of their constitutional rights, like may we might say, a pandemic right now? What’s that point?”
David: “It’s already happening. I live down in Florida, and when we have hurricanes, they institute curfews. What happens is the public interest now starts to outweigh your private interest, so after a hurricane, we don’t want people looting. So that interest of the general public allows the government, for a temporary period of time, to restrict your right to travel outside of your home during certain hours, so the general public is protected.
So all of our rights under the constitution are a balancing act, they’re not absolute, no one has an absolute right to anything, but they are rights, and the government and judges need to decide where does that pendulum swing, and where is the government now going too far? This is actually when we need to be most concerned. Times of crisis is when rights are taken away. Sometimes justifiability, and sometimes wrongly, and it’s times of crisis that you need to fight for your constitutional rights, cause that’s the time when it can really be taken away, and we should all be proud of our constitutional rights, and fight for that balance. There’s nothing wrong with that, even in a pandemic time, to fight for what your rights are.”