Strange as that notion may seem, the Constitution applies even during a crisis. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be worth much. Non-controversial speech doesn’t require protection. Non-emergencies are much less likely to require the protection and the limitations on governmental power of the Constitution.
After a very slow start, the courts began pushing back on the wholesale violations of religious freedom by the authorities during the pandemic. The issue of protest bans has been less addressed, but that’s largely because the authorities mostly stopped interfering with them once the BLM riots got underway.
But there is still the larger issue of how much power could the government seize.
A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday that an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) temporarily halting evictions amid the pandemic is unconstitutional.
The CDC had no such authority.
In a 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge John Barker sided with a group of landlords and property managers who alleged in a lawsuit that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeded the federal government’s constitutional authority.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” Barker, a Trump appointee, wrote.
That is a key point.
“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium. It did not do so during the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic. Nor did it invoke such a power during the exigencies of the Great Depression. The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our Nation’s history until last year,” Barker wrote.
A lot of people were put out of work by the lockdowns and the pandemic. Their situation deserves sympathy. On the other hand, plenty of landlords are also just getting by. Eviction bans were a dumb blunt socialist tool for dealing with a complicated market problem. Much like sending checks to everyone.
There were and are better ways of helping people who are genuinely suffering without massive waste and massive abuse through a huge power grab.
The pandemic doesn’t change the law. And the financial crisis should have been dealt with by helping people, not through a crude illegal intervention.
The Constitution doesn’t go away just because there’s an emergency.