By Heather Walton
I recently had the opportunity to testify during a public hearing regarding Kentucky’s mask mandate (902 KAR 2:210E). There were many amazing people on the zoom call, testifying about various reasons the mask mandate is unconstitutional and sharing compelling personal stories and scholarly research to support their positions. (This is not a statement that people shouldn’t wear masks, as that should be an individual choice, but rather that the government should not regulate this decision.) This is the first time I’ve attended such a hearing, and I found it to be a worthwhile way to participate in our democratic process. Here are my comments, taken from the transcript:
“Thank you so much for this opportunity to speak, and I just want to say I appreciate everyone’s comments. I’ve been very impressed with the depth of research and experiences that you all are willing to share.
So, I’m going to start off by saying when I was seventeen years old, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. I don’t feel released from that oath, and I think that our Constitution is being trampled in all sorts of ways today. While my allegiance was specific to the U.S. Constitution and I do believe that Constitution is being trampled, I am going to argue from the Kentucky Constitution, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which is subordinate to our national Constitution. So, to clarify, the Constitution is the highest law of our Commonwealth and it gives all the branches of government, including the Executive Branch, its power.
And the Preamble of that Constitution says:
So, first, we are entitled to both political and religious liberty and our Constitution was founded on these liberties. The mask issue is highly political, and, for some, it may violate their religious liberty. When we’re looking at a document, an original source, we should define it in terms of the way that it would have been defined at that time. And, so, I want to go to a couple of Websters 1828 Dictionary definitions, the first one being the word political, and political means,
“pertaining to a nation or state, or to nations or states, as distinguished from civil or municipal; as in the phrase, political and civil rights, the former comprehending rights that belong to a nation, or perhaps to a citizen as an individual of a nation; and the latter comprehending the local rights of a corporation or any member of it.Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
And the definition of liberty civil liberty is,
“the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty not necessary or expedient for the public is tyranny or oppression. Civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another.” Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty.”Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
So, moving on to Section 1 of the Bill of Rights of the Kentucky Constitution which addresses the “rights of life, liberty, worship, pursuit of safety and happiness, free speech and acquiring and protecting property, peaceful assembly, redress of grievances and bearing arms, all men are by nature free and equal and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned.
So, we should have the freedom to choose, and with no other infectious disease have we gone to these measures. Will we from this time forward have to mask? According to the World Economic Forum, we probably will. Infectious diseases are a part of life and people will die from them at times. The majority of those who have died, though, from Coronavirus-19 have outlived the average life expectancy and, thus, likely may have died of something else within a relatively close time line or effectively could have died of something else with COVID listed as the reason of death but it was merely a complication of the original illness. Now, I’m not minimizing the loss of anyone, but we would be presumptuous to think that we can live forever and that the measures we take will allow us to cheat the inevitable.
For many, we feel neither safe nor happy while wearing masks. Breathing our own carbon dioxide is unnatural and many people feel panicky when wearing them, and free speech is at stake because people are literally muzzled.
There are times when masks are a safety hazard and even discriminatory and I want to give you some examples of that. One example would be the hearing-impaired. So, you have an exemption if you are hearing-impaired, and I understand you have an exemption if you’re talking to someone who is hearing-impaired, but how many of us know who is hearing-impaired just by looking at them? We don’t necessarily know. And, so, that can cause a safety hazard for those who are.
What about people who have English as a second language? I have a coworker who meets that description, and it’s hard enough to understand each other without a mask on. So, if you’re in a position where there is something that really needs to be communicated thoroughly and quickly and you’ve got English-language learners, that could be a problem, a safety hazard but it’s also a social hazard for them.
And, then, children, I want to address children. I am a certified teacher in the State of Kentucky with certifications in elementary and special education. I do teach and I also currently am a daycare director which recently reopened. Now, I think this mandate is a threat to the safety, for the emotional and physical health of children, and it is creating a generation and a society of germaphobes and hypochondriacs. For example, and I am not someone who goes around wearing masks or talking much about the safety of it around my three-year old, but she recently caught a cold and she said to me, it was because she didn’t wear a mask that she has the coronavirus. Now, she does not have coronavirus. She did not have coronavirus but there is a brain-washing that’s permeating our society about this and creating just fear.
So, a year ago, we went about our business with mild symptoms if we had some place to go or something we needed to do, but now we have to over-analyze every symptom, and this is creating in some ways a lack of a work ethic, I think, because we have to forego our work or whatever if we have a sniffle.
But when it comes to religious freedom, it also can be a hindrance to worshiping God freely. And if this is simply an attempt to gain control over people, then, it is religious discrimination as well.
Section 2 of the Bill of Rights says that absolute and arbitrary power is denied. Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of free men exists nowhere in a Republic and not even in the largest majority. This mandate is absolute and arbitrary because it is a unilateral dictate of the Governor and is not enforced over certain groups of people, namely protesters. The Governor himself was photographed with his mask down shaking both hands of an elderly lady at a rally.
Now, Section 5 goes on to the right of religious freedom and it talks about
So, if I’m told to mask during singing at church, to social distance during church, these things are contrary to biblical teaching. We are told to lay hands on the sick, to greet each other and touch each other with affection and to sing. And if it goes against my religious conscience and beliefs to wear a mask and I have to wear one to receive the goods and services, this is a violation of conscience and my religious freedoms.
Section 26 of the Bill of Rights says,
So, if that is true, if all of the above is true and all of the things that we’ve said today, and I believe they are, these things can’t be changed according to our Bill of Rights and it is not to be altered without abolishing the government.
I would submit to you that the true pandemic we are facing is a pandemic of fear and control.
And while COVID-19 is causing sickness and even death, the death rate is low and the fear rate is astronomical. This is not about true health. It is about control, and we need not to submit to this and we need our Governor, our lawmakers and our Judges to adhere to the Constitution. Thank you.