What Exactly Are Our Rights
in a National Emergency?
No one wants to be dismissive of the dangers of an unknown entity like COVID-19. Until more is known about it, common sense social distancing has seemed to be a reasonable approach — at least for awhile. How much “protection for our own good” is warranted by federal, state, and local governments, however, and how long should it continue? When should we be alarmed that our guaranteed freedoms are being overridden? Liberty Counsel offers clear and well-researched guidance about our freedoms in the most important areas of our lives.
Reprinted with permission. Pat Daugherty, Ed.D.April 8, 2020
The Presumption of Liberty
In any discussion of a potential limitation of constitutional freedom and unalienable rights, we begin with the presumption of liberty. Liberties such as the right to life, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion are not privileges granted to the people. They are unalienable to the person. Our God-given rights pre-exist government. As the Declaration of Independence states, governments “are instituted” in order to “secure these rights.” Government must safeguard liberties you already possess. The U.S. Constitution also protects many additional rights.
Guidelines For Expanded Government Authority During An Emergency
In general, government can restrict certain rights by demonstrating a legitimate or compelling interest. The government must also have to use what is called the “least restrictive means” to accomplish its goal. In other words, if the government can accomplish its “compelling interest” in a less restrictive way, then it must do so. The restriction should be “narrowly tailored” to meet the stated objective. Any restriction must not discriminate against religion. Although the word “emergency” is not in the Constitution, the Constitution does mention situations of “invasion,” “domestic violence,” and “war.” Supreme Court martial law cases arose during times of war. The Supreme Court has never been faced with martial law questions outside of war or rebellion.
At the federal, state and local level, the declaration of an emergency triggers certain laws to take effect. A federal emergency puts many laws into effect. Interestingly, state and local officials also can enact “states of emergency” that may grant them even broader powers, in large part because state and local officials have direct access to police power. The challenge comes in upholding the high standards of the “least restrictive means” and “narrowly tailored” requirements when the alleged emergency demands restrictions on constitutional rights.
Q&A Regarding Covid-19 Emergency Restrictions
What follows are answers to commonly asked questions we are receiving that surround the COVID-19 crisis. Please note that many of the emergency powers we now see operating have not yet been tested in court. The key question for the courts may be whether the government could have accomplished its emergency goals using less restrictive means. This bulletin is not meant to provide legal advice. The below responses to common questions are broad guidelines and principles that may or may not apply to your particular situation.
► Can the government restrict meeting sizes and gatherings?
State and local laws grant the ability to temporarily restrict gatherings during emergencies. These orders should be temporary, “least restrictive” and “narrowly tailored” to accomplish a compelling need. A constitutional problem arises when a size limitation is placed over different locations and types of meetings without any flexibility.
► Can the government restrict church meetings?
Any emergency powers must be content-neutral and cannot target religion. Orders that allow certain secular meetings while restricting churches can be discriminatory.
► Can the government close businesses during a health emergency?
State and local laws grant the government the ability to temporarily close businesses during a health emergency, but this is such an extreme restriction on the rights and liberties of individuals that at best it should be a last resort. Outside of war or rebellion, these cases have not been fully tested in court.
► Can the government make “emergency” orders “effective immediately”?
Technically, yes, but only if the “emergency” requires it. However, the courts generally recognize the right to “due process.” Even in an emergency, governments should provide fair notice that is clearly stated and sets forth sufficient detail for compliance. Some orders that are quickly created and released to the public are constitutionally suspect. Most have never been fully vetted by expert lawyers or debated.
► Can the government limit how many people you can have in your home during an emergency?
Apart from building codes, zoning and other generally applicable ordinances, the government cannot limit the number of people in your home. Under some of these restrictions, Jesus could not have met with the Apostles!
► Can the government limit or stop firearm sales during an emergency?
Although some of the emergency ordinances being issued seem to create such restrictions, the government would have to demonstrate its need to do so. In relation to controlling a virus, there is no apparent constitutional connection.
► Can the government QUARANTINE people by neighborhood, city or other regional areas during a health emergency as a general measure that covers many citizens?
Some state laws grant government the authority to quarantine citizens. In the context of this virus, quarantining healthy people has not been tested in court. For a list of state quarantine laws, see .
► Can a person be required to be tested for COVID-19 or another infectious disease?
This depends on the state law. See above.
► How long can restrictions be kept in place?
Based on the “least restrictive means” and “narrowly tailored” standards for certain constitutional rights, all such restrictions should be temporary.
► Can the government use the GPS and other data on digital devices to monitor or even control people’s movements during a health emergency?
This drastic measure appears to violate constitutional rights.
► Can the government require persons to show a “negative” disease test, or a work permit or otherwise limit the ability to travel because of a health emergency?
The courts have upheld restrictions on freedom of movement in certain cases. But the bar is very high for government to limit your right to move freely within our country.
Liberty Counsel is actively involved in a number of national and international ministries: Liberty Church Council, the spiritual, theological, and doctrinal advisory body of LC; Liberty Counsel Action, a ministry focused on education and public policy; Liberty Prayer Network, an international prayer ministry; Liberty Relief International, an international humanitarian ministry to persecuted Christians and religious minorities; Faith & Liberty, a Christian outreach to top-level government officials in Washington, DC, and the National ProLife Center, a pro-life initiative on Capitol Hill. Liberty Counsel also operates a pro bono litigation program to provide assistance and representation for situations involving religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS SUGGESTIONS
By Janine Hansen
QUARANTINE: Have a 3 month supply of the foods you eat and the items you use every day and every week. Make a list. Be sure you have these supplies on hand in your home so you don’t have to worry about not being able to go to the store. Consider items like toothpaste, toilet paper, and pet food. Buy things you will use, date them with a sharpie marker and rotate them.
WATER: The most important consideration in preparedness is water. You should have a minimum emergency supply of 1 gallon per person per day for two weeks for drinking and other purposes. Don’t forget your pets. Use food grade containers like soda pop & juice bottles to store water. (Don’t use milk jugs. They leak back into the water.) Store unscented Clorox (use 8 drops per one gallon of water) or other water purifiers. Label all containers by content and date. An excellent water purifier is Big Berkey.
SANITATION: If the water is not running what sanitation arrangements have you made? You should have disinfectant, a port-a-potty, baby wipes to clean your hands, extra underwear and socks, water for washing dishes, plastic garbage bags for disposing of wastes, bar and dish soap, detergent, and plenty of disposable/or regular diapers and plastic pants. Toilet paper is always at a premium during disaster situations. Consider keeping old phone books and newspaper for sanitation use. If you have to dispose of human waste you should store lye so you can bury it.
FOOD: You should have non-perishable food in the initial stages of an emergency that does not have to be cooked. Store things you will eat. Long-term storage should include bulk grains, beans, powdered milk, cooking oil, salt, sugar or honey, dehydrated and freeze dried foods. Learn how to use them. If you store wheat you may need a non-electric grinder. Date all storage. One place to get freeze dried and dehydrated food is at Emergency Essentials/Auguson Farms at www.beprepared.com. Many of their products are available at WalMart as well. (That was before this crisis. Emergency Essentials is two months out, but at some point they will catch up.)
HEALTH: You should have extra prescription medicines on hand, an emergency first aid kit, extra supplies and some knowledge of first aid. Extra vitamin C, multi-vitamins, herbs and natural remedies are important. Does your family have special needs, like an infant or an elderly?
ELECTRICITY: Consider what you would do if you had no electricity. You should have alternative sources for heat, light, and cooking. You need flashlights with extra batteries, possibly a solar batter recharger and rechargeable batteries. Fire places, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, Mr. Heater Buddy inside propane heater, lanterns (solar, battery, lamp oil or kerosene), candles, camp stoves are possibilities. Have fuel and matches on hand. Kerosene stores well for several years. A kerosene lantern will work for 5 hours a day, for one year on 12 gallons of kerosene. If you are on a well you may consider installing a hand pump. One hand pump which works on an existing well is Simple Pump from Gardnerville Nevada. You can buy them direct, or from Anderson Drilling in Winnemucca who also installs them.
COMMUNICATIONS: You need a radio preferably that has battery, solar, and hand crank power possibilities. You need a way to recharge your cell phone. There are small solar rechargers available. You need a plan to get in touch with your family.
CLOTHING & SHOES: In a disaster you may need special clothing like, ponchos, boots, extra socks, underwear, and warm coats. If you are considering long-term preparedness ask yourself, “Could I get along for a year on the clothing I have?” Most adults could get by with just a few extras, but what about growing children. Consider getting bigger sizes they can grow into. If you have a baby you will need cloth diapers, pins and plastic pants. Women may need sanitary supplies. Reusable are available on line.
SHELTER: In case of an earthquake or other disaster you may need a tent sufficient for a temporary shelter. You should have at least 3 extra blankets per person or a good sleeping bag and pad, tarps and rope.
MONEY: During disasters the ATM’s may not be working and banks could be closed. You need to have cash on hand in small denominations. Consider what you would do if the disaster lasts longer than a few days or a bank holiday is declared.
If you were not able to go to the grocery store for 2 months how would you fare?
By Janine Hansen, Update September 2017
A few years ago, because of an acute financial crisis beyond my control, I did not have the money to go to the grocery store for over 2 months. I have reflected repeatedly on that very valuable experience. I have been “preparing” for at least 30 years. Because of that, when crisis struck, we had everything we needed for those two months. It was also a blessing that it was in the Autumn because I had fresh vegetables…tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and carrots to eat from my garden.
If you were not able to go to the grocery store for 2 months how would you fare?
Would you have enough food in your freezer and on your shelves of the food you regularly eat to get by comfortably for 2-3 months? Or would you be reduced to eating plain rice and beans? Or nothing?
Would you run out of toilet paper, toothpaste, dental floss, bar soap, shampoo, razors, dish soap, detergent, lotion, sanitary supplies, or make-up?
Would you have the prescription medications you need or the over-the-counter allergy and pain relievers to make life more comfortable? What about band aids and other first aid items?
Would your pets have something to eat?
At my house, if the power goes out, I am instantly without water. Each person should store 1-2 gallons of water per person per day, enough for at least 14 days and have water filtration items for a longer period of time. Don’t forget your pets.
We live in perilous times. Our leaders of both political parties are corrupt. The people themselves are morally corrupt. The blessings of heaven which have so blessed America in the past have been withdrawn.
We have unprecedented weather which will lead not only to higher food prices and shortages, but could lead to famine (even in America).
Our economy is on life support, infused monthly with multi-billions of printing press dollars from the Private Federal Reserve Bank. The fact is, the United States has far more debt than “bankrupt” Greece. With unfunded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Pensions our Federal debt is not $20 Trillion but $230 Trillion. An economic reckoning is at our doors.
Food inflation is at an all time high estimated between 19%-22%. The price of food is rapidly outpacing our paychecks. The average price of ground beef is now over $4.00 a pound. In 2007 the price was $2.19.
If you think about it, you know in your heart that things have changed…no president can save America from financial and moral bankruptcy. The people themselves must change and repent.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked way; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
KJV 2 Chronicles 7: 14
If we are willing to learn from history we will recognize many responsible reasons to have at least 3 months of food storage and supplies on hand, and if we are wise we will have more long term storage. If you have homeowners or car insurance…having food and supplies is no different…it is like insurance.
During the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic, it took about 3 months for the deadly flu to move through a community. How long did it take for things to return to relative normal after hurricane Katrina? How long will recovery take in Houston, Florida, Mexico and Puerto Rico where emergency supplies still can’t reach the people who need them?
When they closed the Banks during the Great Depression…many of them never opened again. Have some emergency cash in your home in case of a bank holiday. During the financial crisis in Greece, the people were limited to 430 Euros (458.57 US) a week they could withdraw from their banks for over a year.
How do you calculate what you need? First of all pray about it. The Lord knows the answer.
Then make a list of everything you use every day: TP, soap, toothpaste, etc. Then calculate how much you need for a week…a month…3 months…
Make a list of meals that you could make from items in your freezer and on your shelves. For instance: Spaghetti: hamburger, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, mushrooms, onions (I use dehydrated which I buy in number 10 cans), Italian spices, garlic, spaghetti noodles, etc. Now multiply each by 12. That will give you one meal a week for 3 months.
Do the same for another meal until you have 7 dinner meals. You can soon see how much you have and how much you need. Then figure simple breakfasts and lunches the same way, oatmeal, canned or powdered milk, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruit, etc.
For longer term storage use the food storage calculator at: http://providentliving.com/preparedness/food-storage/foodcalc/ which allows you to figure the amount of basic food items for a year. It will tell you how many pounds of grains, legumes, dairy products, sugars, leavening, salt, and fats you need for your family.
It is really impossible to store a year supply, even a 3 month’s supply, of water. I encourage you to store at least 2 weeks worth of water (1 gallon per person per day) and then have a water filter and a purification kit. I like the Big Berkey or Providentlving.org has a water filtration bottle for $16.50 with additional filters available. http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product3_715839595_10557_3074457345616706370_-1__196940
It may be at some point that we lose power. That means you would need some alternative way to cook your food, light and heat your home. Nevada is the third most seismologically active (earthquake) state in the nation. We are experiencing a time when we have seen the Ring of Fire alive with large earthquakes.
A camping stove or BBQ with stored propane would be a good alternative. Just as for any emergency you should have flashlights, lanterns, (with extra batteries or fuel), candles, matches, etc. Don’t be in the dark. This year we experienced a large fire in the Elko area very close to my home. Many of my friends were evacuated. We lost power for 15 hours and of course because we are on a well we lost water as well. I was so happy that we had prepared. Although I was scrambling to find C batteries for my radio so we could keep up on the fire.
Consider special needs for the elderly, babies and pets. Women consider sanitary supplies. You can purchase reusable sanitary supplies on line. www.BubuBibi.com
Do you want peace of mind? Do you want to be independent of our corrupt government including FEMA and the mobs when things break down in an economic crisis? Without food storage and other supplies you will be vulnerable. I believe it is only responsible to prepare to take care of yourself and your family. First of all, we must trust God who is our Salvation, but just like Joseph of Egypt we would be wise to prepare.
Resources for Long Term Storage: I suggest storing basics like rice, beans, wheat, pasta, potato flakes, sugar, oatmeal, dried onions, dried carrots, dried apples, tomato powder, etc., rather than prepackaged meals, for several reasons: (don’t forget to include, salt, spices, cooking oil, baking powder, baking soda and yeast) 1) They are much cheaper so you can get much more for the money you invest, 2) if someone has food allergies, it is very difficult to eat prepackaged food which often contains the foods most people are sensitive to, 3) whole wheat and beans can be sprouted for additional nutrition especially Vitamin C.
Here is one approach for long term storage (access off www.providentliving.org): http://ndfs.byu.edu/Portals/9/docs/research/AN%20APPROACH%20TO%20LONGER%20TERM%20FOOD%20STORAGE.JUNE2015.pdf
Long term storage is available many places. I am listing ones where I have purchased items myself:
One of the most inexpensive is www.providentliving.org I believe the shipping is just $3 for whatever you order. You do have to order a case of 6 #10 cans of a single item. Inexpensive water filters too.
www.Costco.com shipping is included.
WalMart off the shelf, one #10 can at a time.
Emergency Essentials www.beprepared.com Huge variety.
Big Berkey Water Filters are available at Amazon, www.bigberkeywaterfilter.com just search the web.
Better to be prepared months or years in advance rather than one day too late!