Public Health

Closure orders spark lawsuits from NRA, anti-abortion protesters and others

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Across the nation, business owners, the National Rifle Association, would-be churchgoers and anti-abortion protesters are among the plaintiffs suing over state shutdown orders.

The New York Times reports on “a wave of lawsuits” being filed to challenge the orders, imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among those suing in Pennsylvania are the general manager of a golf course and a company that makes bells and chimes. In Arizona, two unemployed workers in Flagstaff have also sued, the Arizona Daily Sun reports. The suits cite due process guarantees.

In New York, the National Rifle Association cited the Second Amendment in a lawsuit challenging the governor’s order for nonessential workers to stay home, the New York Law Journal reports. Other Second Amendment suits have been filed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas and California.

In New Hampshire, lawyer and politician Dan Hynes claimed in a lawsuit that restrictions on the size of public gatherings infringe rights to freedom of assembly and religion.

Hynes represents three people who say the state’s order prevents them from attending political events and church services, and from visiting restaurants, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

A judge tossed Hynes’ suit on March 20, WMUR reported.

The rights to worship and free assembly, among others, were also cited in a New Mexico lawsuit filed by Leland Taylor, the president of the Albuquerque Tea Party, according to the New York Times.

In Michigan, the American Freedom Law Center has sued on behalf of anti-abortion protesters, who say their protests are protected by the First Amendment, according to a press release.

The New York Times discussed the lawsuits with Tom Burke, a political science professor at Wellesley College who studies the politics of litigation. The lawsuits may be “part of an attempt to make an argument in the press about overreach,” Burke told the newspaper.

Burke noted that courts are usually very deferential to governments that are trying to protect public health. Deference is “the general pattern in the middle of a crisis,” he said.

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