State Rep. Beau LaFave, of Iron Mountain, today released the following statement in response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order prohibiting all gatherings of more than 250 people until April 5, 2020. LaFave, chair of the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, blasted the unilateral move, calling it a violation of Michigan residents’ First Amendment right to assemble:
“I want nothing more than for the coronavirus to be eradicated before more people are harmed. While I believe the top priority of state government is to keep the people of Michigan safe, I also believe that our constitutional rights must never be thrown out the window.
“The Constitution clearly asserts our right to assemble. The governor cannot unilaterally prohibit Michiganders from gathering – let alone making it a misdemeanor. Furthermore, the First Amendment clearly protects the free exercise of religion. Gov. Whitmer’s unilateral action violates that as well.
“I will always be the first person to agree with Gov. Whitmer that the state should take pro-active, sound measures to prevent the spread of any illness. However, we must take action that is not in violation of the Constitution.
“In situations like this, everyone has the responsibility to wash their hands and avoid unnecessary close contact with others, but the government cannot violate the Constitution – even to a good end.
“Through responsible judgement, people have already showcased prudence by willingly canceling upcoming events for the health and well-being of themselves and their communities.
“Rather than issue an edict that decimates the First Amendment right of all Michiganders, I – along with my colleagues in the Legislature – have taken a much different action.
“I recently cast my vote to allocate $25 million in state funding and authorize $50 million in federal funding to go directly toward efforts to combat COVID-19 and help protect the public.
“Yes, it’s on all of us to help prevent the spread of illnesses, but unilateral, unconstitutional dictates are not the solution. I urge the governor to rescind the unconstitutional portion of Executive Order 5 and look forward to working with the governor to get Michigan through this challenging time.”