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Attorney General Bill Barr has officially ordered legal action against lockdown orders that go too far.
In a statement published on the official Department of Justice government website, Barr writes:
I am directing each of our United States Attorneys to be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens … the Constitution is NOT suspended.
The memo gives federal prosecutors the permission to go after leaders whose restrictive COVID-19 shutdown orders infringe on Constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Any unconstitutional virus rules will be dealt with by the DOJ.
This announcement comes after nationwide reports of lockdown policies banning the sales of guns, fruit seeds, and vegetable seeds.
Other lockdown orders have even prevented homeowners from going to secondary properties that they own in order to avoid the virus.
More details on this breaking development below:
Many states across the nation are preparing to begin Phase One of opening up their local economies.
However, some lockdown orders appear to be outsized power grabs.
Fox News has more details on Barr's directive to federal prosecutors:
Attorney General Bill Barr has instructed federal prosecutors to "be on the lookout" for overly restrictive state and local shutdown orders that may infringe on people's constitutional rights.
In a memo issued Monday, Barr recognized that while some restrictions are necessary and proper for combating the coronavirus pandemic, others could go too far.
"If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court," Barr said.
The attorney general noted that while in the past, the DOJ warned against orders that discriminate against religious institutions, "the Constitution also forbids, in certain circumstances, discrimination against disfavored speech and undue interference with the national economy."
The Justice Department previously filed a statement of interest in a Mississippi lawsuit, siding with a church after local officials tried to stop Holy Week services broadcasting to people sitting in their cars in the parking lot.
While some states are in the process of loosening restrictions as the number of cases decreases, others remain as vigilant as ever. Protests have popped up in some areas of the country as shutdown orders have resulted in a skyrocketing unemployment rate.
In a recent appearance on Hugh Hewitt's radio program, Barr said some state orders were "disturbingly close to house arrest." He said that while the goal was to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, that goal has largely been achieved and states should now use "more targeted approaches."
Barr said in his memo that he is placing the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in charge of coordinating the department’s efforts to monitor state and local policies and take action if needed.
Barr is right; even in times of crisis, the Constitution is NOT suspended.
It is his job as Attorney General to ensure that people's Constitutional rights are protected even in the midst of a pandemic.
States will not be punished simply for having lockdown orders.
Rather, federal prosecutors are only on the lookout for orders that cross legal boundaries that unnecessarily take away guaranteed rights.
Now that the memo has become public, many eyes have turned to Michigan, where Governor Whitmer's orders were accused of being too aggressive.
She even banned fruit and vegetable seed sales as "non-essential."
Reports now are rising of potential food shortages as COVID-19 has disrupted the national food supply chain.
The Washington Times suggests that the state of Michigan may be under scrutiny:
Mr. Barr also directed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider to monitor state and local policies for potential violations.
The two officials will work with state and local governments as well as other federal agencies, according to the memo. They will be on the alert for coronavirus response policies that restrict free speech or religious liberty as well as other constitutional rights.
“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis,” Mr. Barr wrote.
“We must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected,” he continued.
Michigan Governor Whitmer is one of the few names that have been talked about as a potential running mate for Joe Biden.
Biden has publicly stated that he would like to select a female as his running mate.