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Defenders of liberty

Empower Wisconsin | May 11, 2020

MADISON —Even in these dark days of unchecked government abuse of power, there have been many lights of liberty.

People all over Wisconsin have stood up against Gov. Tony Evers’ power grab and the unnecessary suffering it has caused.

We chronicle just some of their stories here.

Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley

Last week’s oral arguments before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a case involving the Evers administration’s statewide lockdown showcased some of the Badger State’s most ardent defenders of civil liberties.

“… (W)here in the constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single, unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply — with no input from the Legislature, without the consent of the people?” Bradley asked Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth.

Bradley’s point was clear and direct: do the governed give up their basic constitutional rights to one branch of government because of a health crisis — or any other crisis for that matter?

The justice pointed to another time in history, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Korematsu ruling, that insisted, “assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry in assembly centers during World War II” was constitutionally permissible. It allowed internment camps. Bradley asked whether Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm’s unilateral authority could lead Wisconsin down that awful road.

“Could the secretary under this broad delegation of legislative power, or legislative-like power order people out of their homes into centers where they are properly social distanced in order to combat the pandemic?” Bradley asked.

Justice Daniel Kelly

Kelly’s focused line of questioning makes anyone who values the constitution and clear-minded reading of the law lament the loss of this extraordinary jurist  — to an election that brought out a bumper crop of liberal voters thanks to a Democratic presidential primary.

Conservative members of the court asked whether there are constitutional or statutory limits on the power of the DHS and its secretary-designee. That sparked one of the more exacting exchanges, in which Kelly schooled Roth on constitutional law.

Kelly asked whether the DHS lockdown order created criminal penalties, an authority only granted the Legislature. Roth finally had to acknowledge that was indeed the case.

“In a sense,” the attorney said. “I don’t know if it’s a material sense.”

“Counsel, I think you might want to think about that a little bit. It’s a really material sense,” Kelly interrupted. “We require standard pre-exists as a matter of law. … The secretary all by herself created a criminal law.”

“Your position is the Secretary can identify behavior that is not otherwise criminal, that she can, all by herself, sit down at her computer keyboard, write up a description of behavior, and make it criminal?” Kelly asked.

“Yes,” the assistant attorney general conceded.

Amyiah Cohoon

This 16-year-old girl from Oxford, Wis., and her family fought back after Marquette County Sheriff Joseph Konrath and his Barney Fife-like deputy, Cameron Klump, threatened to arrest her for posting on Instagram that she had the coronavirus.

Her doctors say Amyiah probably did have the coronavirus, by the way.

But that didn’t stop Klump from demanding the Instagram post be removed.

“Sergeant Klump stated that he had direct orders from Sheriff Konrath to demand that Amyiah delete this post, and, if she did not, to cite Amyiah and/or her parents for disorderly conduct and to ‘start taking people to jail,’” according to court documents.

Yes, the teen and her parents are suing the overzealous law enforcement officials in federal court.

“There are no circumstances that would allow law enforcement to police social media in this way,” said Luke Berg, deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, in a press release. “At a moment when civil liberties need to be guarded most, the Marquette County Sheriff must be held accountable.”

The Faithful 

Here’s to the many places of worship that stood up for their right to faithfully assemble, who reminded the DHS and local health departments that the protection of religion is first in the First Amendment for a reason.

For many, the state and local orders banning drive-up services in church parking lots on Easter Week was a bridge too far. It was government doing what it cannot, even in a pandemic: prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Faith communities from around the state made sure that they practiced their First Amendment right of free speech, voicing their frustrations to local and state officials. Evers eventually buckled to the public outcry and parishioners throughout the state finally got together — in their cars and in the church parking lots — to hear the Good News.

Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), who has been a strong defender of liberty in the Legislature, said the administration’s broad order “screams of hostility toward religion, and it screams of hostility toward the First Amendment and the free exercise thereof.”

The Citizen

They’re as mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore!

Thousands of frustrated Wisconsinites have turned out at rallies across the state demanding Evers re-open Wisconsin. They assemble even as government officials and members of the mainstream media label them as right-wing extremists, even murderers, and call for their arrests.

They come together in the name of liberty.

“We want Wisconsin back open,” said Tom Kienitz, who demonstration with his wife, Trish, and their son at the Capitol last month. Like many, they carried their message on their cardinal and white protest sign. “We think there are a lot of people who are hurting; they’ve been out of work for way too long.”

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