NewsCourt Rules Refusal To Wear COVID-19 Mask Isn't Free Speech

Court Rules Refusal To Wear COVID-19 Mask Isn’t Free Speech

This is a safety issue!

A group of New Jersey residents lost their fight in court for free speech.

On Feb. 5, a Third Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled in favor of school officials in Freehold and Cranford, New Jersey, after residents refused to wear face masks at school board meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. In two lawsuits filed by George Falcone and Gwyneth Murray-Nolan, the plaintiffs claim not wearing a mask constituted protected speech under the First Amendment.

Murray-Nolan, an open opponent of the mask efficiency, attended a similar meeting in Cranford without a mask, despite a requirement for them. A few weeks later, when she returned for the next board meeting, Murray-Nolan was arrested for a defiant trespass charge for not wearing a mask – again. The arresting officers were found probable to arrest her by a lower court since wearing a mask was required by law at the time. 

Falcone alleged he was retaliated against by school boards over his refusal to cover up in public meetings. One suit was sent back to a lower court for further review, and in Murray-Nolan’s suit, she failed to show she was retaliated against. Regardless, the court ruled refusal to wear a mask during a public health emergency doesn’t equate to free speech protected by the Constitution. “A question shadowing suits such as these is whether there is a First Amendment right to refuse to wear a protective mask as required by valid health and safety orders put in place during a recognized public health emergency,” the court said. 

“Like all courts to address this issue, we conclude there is not.” 

“Skeptics are free to–and did–voice their opposition through multiple means, but disobeying a masking requirement is not one of them,” the ruling said. “One could not, for example, refuse to pay taxes to express the belief that ‘taxes are theft.’ Nor could one refuse to wear a motorcycle helmet as a symbolic protest against a state law requiring them.”

Ronald Berutti, attorney for both Falcone and Murray-Nolan, claims their next plan is to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Source: Black Enterprise

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