Do you have the right under the U.S. Constitution to go out in public without a face mask?
I have a few thoughts on that, but first let me state I am not a lawyer, nor do I have any special knowledge that qualifies me as an expert on interpreting the U.S. Constitution.
But my answer is no. It came to me while watching a newscast on one of the national networks. They were interviewing a young woman who defiantly stated she had no intention of wearing a face mask. It was her right, she asserted, to expose herself to danger.
In a related issue, a young man being interviewed asserted, what’s the big deal? He had had "the flu" before and he is fine now.
For starters, he is ignoring the testimony of scientific experts who have reported that the coronavirus is multiple times more severe than any "flu" most of us have experienced in our lifetimes.
And second, he, too, was ignoring the "fact" that he has a right to expose himself to the coronavirus risk. He was willing to take risk upon himself.
Both of the incidents reminded me of something I learned a long time ago.
Way back in 1919, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional rights of individuals were subject to some limitations.
Their ruling offered this example: "Shouting fire in a crowded theater" is not a constitutional right.
Wikipedia.com states that the original 1919 ruling was fine-tuned in 1969 in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, which limited the scope of banned speech to "that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action."
As a non-expert, I don’t know whether wearing a face mask would be ruled a violation of the two rulings. It seems logical to me. Therefore, it probably isn’t true.
• Another thought: With so many statues being torn down, we have a surplus of pedestals. What we need is a commission to take comments from the public on whose images would be acceptable to the most people. I hereby nominate Dr. Anthony Fauci for one in the U.S. Capitol.
In the Kansas Statehouse, a statue of Lee Norman, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary.
And in front of the Shawnee County Courthouse, the county’s health officer, Gianfranco Pezzino.
They are trying to get people to do the right thing: Wash hands often and thoroughly and wear a face mask in public.
Mike Hall can be reached at email@example.com.