- Foundations of Truth
Watch Out for Government Overreach
Although we would like to believe that most people are good and virtuous, citizens, and especially Christians, have an obligation to abhor evil. In Psalm 97:10 God’s people are encouraged: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” All citizens need to look out for the insidious ways that governments can seize power. The current global pandemic is certainly a terrifying occurrence and it is important for people to follow proper medical protocol but we cannot forget about the consequences of overly-enthusiastic government action.
In the age of COVID-19, many governments are responding with unusual measures to try to stop the spread of the virus. In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has invoked state of emergency powers under the Colorado constitution.  This and subsequent executive orders have established a laundry list of common-sense restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus, including closing bars, restaurants, gyms, ski resorts and in-person schools. 
Governors across the country have broad-sweeping powers under their state constitutions and it is far better for them to enact such measures than for the federal government to mandate these restrictions. Nonetheless, Colorado and other states must be careful, lest they allow governmental overreach to become the lasting legacy of the coronavirus.
For example, in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine closed the polls the night before a primary election, in flagrant disregard of an order by a judge in Columbus that the physical polling places must remain open. Judge Richard Frye argued that moving the polls to the proposed alternative date in June served little purpose as there is no medical guarantee that the pandemic will be over by then and it will set ”terrible precedent”  because it could allow state officials with an obvious conflict of interest to move elections.
The case was moved up to the Ohio Supreme Court overnight. The court ultimately affirmed the decision, however, before they issued a ruling, DeWine had the Ohio Department of Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton, issue an order closing the polling places.  This action was beyond the known authority of Governor DeWine under Ohio law and yet he still did it before receiving input from the state judiciary. Cases like this need to be considered carefully.
Unfortunately, authoritarian leaders in other countries, like China’s Xi Jinping, are positioned to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to expand their police powers and enact extreme measures that will be acceptable to people who are too frightened by the virus to object.  Although such extreme acts are not likely in the United States and the actions of most state governors have been within their powers under their state constitutions, people should be wary of this situation setting bad government precedent. As Isaiah 10:1-2 warns “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
Even if the current officials who are enacting these measures have done so with good intentions, the fact that they are doing it now means that, someday, someone else who is in office will be able to point to history to justify their own ill-intentioned actions. Following protocol to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is a good idea but whatever government actions are taken, they need to be scrutinized and carefully examined with the long-term consequences in mind.
Extraordinary times do, indeed, call for extraordinary measures, however, even medicine is lethal if the dosage is too high.
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 “D 2020 003 Executive Order Declaring a Disaster Emergency Due to the Presence of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Colorado,” Colorado.gov (March 10, 2020), https://www.colorado.gov/governor/sites/default/files/inline-files/D%202020%20003%20Declaring%20a%20Disaster%20Emergency.pdf
 “Executive Orders,” Counsel of State Governments (March 23, 2020), https://web.csg.org/covid19/executive-orders/
 Rebecca Kaplan, et al., “Ohio governor orders polling locations close for Tuesday's primary over coronavirus fears,” CBS News (March 16, 2020), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mike-dewine-ohio-governor-delay-in-person-primary-voting-coronavirus-concerns/
 Zach Montellaro and Alice Miranda Ollstein, “Ohio governor shutters polling places for Tuesday's primary, citing public health,” Politico (March 16, 2020), https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/ohio-governor-recommends-postponing-tuesdays-primary-132340
 Thomas Reilly, “COVID-19 and Xi Jinping: How the Strongman Got Stronger,” The Diplomat (March 19, 2020), https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/covid-19-and-xi-jinping-how-the-strongman-got-stronger/