The Justice Department, according to quiet reports in the media, just asked Congress for special emergency powers for chief judges that would allow them to detain people absent trial and indefinitely, over fears from coronavirus.
Talk about squeamish.
Specifically, the proposal, reported first by Politico, would allow judges the power to “pause court proceedings,” including those of “pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial and post-trial” in nature — a provision that would, in effect, allow for the indefinite holding of those individuals arrested for a crime.
It’s times like these — times of national crisis, times of national coronavirus emergency — that civil rights, constitutional rights, God-given individual rights become most vulnerable, most tested.
It’s times like these, though, they also become most necessary.
It’s far too easy for government to justify times of crises as cause for trampling the Constitution. Similarly, it’s far too easy for citizens, in times of crises, to cede certain constitutional rights for the greater good — for the security of the nation, for the health and safety of the larger population.
This is when those of principle more than political expediency must stand strong.
“OVER MY DEAD BODY,” Sen. Mike Lee tweeted, above a linked copy of Politico’s “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus.”
He added, “If this is a joke, it’s not funny.”
And thank goodness there’s some nonpartisanship on this point.
“Two Words: Hell No,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted.
From independent Rep. Justin Amash was this, The Blaze noted: “Congress must loudly reply NO.”
And socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in with this, on CNN: “There’s a long history in this country and in other countries of using emergencies as times to really start to encroach upon people’s civil rights. And in fact, this is a time when we need them the absolute most,” The Washington Examiner reported.
Mark the time, note the date. This is a historical first: Ocasio-Cortez is quite right.
Emergencies, even on a national scale, do not give government the right to strip individual, constitutional rights from the people.
America will defeat the coronavirus. But if America, in so doing, loses its cherished freedoms in the process, what good is it? It’s only by staying America that the battle against the coronavirus, in the end, will even matter.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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