Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against Anti-Trump Michigan Governor Over Coronavirus Shutdown Orders
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has emerged as one of the most partisan and classless leaders in the country during the coronavirus pandemic, is being challenged with a civil rights lawsuit over executive orders that have caused pro-life activists to be deprived of their 1st Amendment rights.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed the lawsuit on Wednesday night to dispute the constitutionality of Whitmer’s “Shelter in Place” order. The group contends that Whitmer’s executive orders unlawfully punish the free speech of pro-life protesters Andrew Belanger, Justin Phillips, and Cal Zastrow, who are listed as the plaintiffs on the lawsuit. Whitmer and the City of Detroit are listed as the defendants.
Whitmer issued the executive orders on Mar. 24, which effectively shut down most businesses throughout the state. However, abortion clinics were kept open so women could continue slaughtering their babies in the womb during the coronavirus pandemic. These clinics are also hogging medical supplies during a time in which they are desperately needed to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The AFLC believes that the rights of these pro-life activists were violated when the individuals attempted to engage in pro-life activism last weekend. According to the lawsuit, Belanger was mobbed by eight police vehicles and 15 police officers while protesting at the Scotsdale Women’s Center in Detroit on March 31. His fellow activists, Phillips and Zastrow, arrived after the cops showed up on the scene.
“We’re here for a violation of a stay at home order by the Governor,” one of the officers allegedly said to the pro-life activists who were not permitted to engage in 1st Amendment activism due to Whitmer’s decree.
Belanger received a “State of Michigan Uniform Law Citation,” which would be a misdemeanor violation if he is ultimately convicted of the offense, for his pro-life activism. This occurred despite Belanger’s insistence that social distancing guidelines were being followed during the protest. The officers apparently told the pro-life activists that the baby murder going on in the clinic was considered “essential” while their Christian protest was considered not “essential.”
“The scope of our lawsuit and request for a restraining order are narrow. We do not advance a general challenge to the constitutionality of the Governor’s Executive Order, nor do we seek to halt its enforcement outside of the very limited and narrow scope of our challenge,” AFLC co-founder and senior counsel Robert Muise explained about his organization’s lawsuit.
“We understand the critical need to stop the spread of the corona virus, as do our clients, who are adhering to the social distancing guidelines. Through this litigation, we only seek to prohibit the use of the Executive Order to criminalize our clients’ peaceful, free speech activity on the public sidewalks outside of abortion centers throughout Michigan,” he added.
Muise believes that Whitmer’s executive orders are capricious and unlawful because they carve out exceptions for Michigan residents to use public sidewalks “[t]o engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people.” However, there are no provisions in the executive orders to protect the 1st Amendment rights of protesters such as these pro-life activists.
“Indeed, under the current enforcement of this Order, our clients’ First Amendment activity is a crime. Yet, an individual could use the very same sidewalk to walk, hike, run, cycle or engage in other similar recreational activity without receiving a criminal citation for doing so. This our Constitution does not permit,” Muise said.
AFLC co-founder and senior counsel David Yerushalmi notes that the coronavirus pandemic, while an urgent public health emergency, will never kill a fraction of the amount that are murdered annually due to abortion.
“If the stated purpose of the Executive Order is true—that it was issued “to sustain or protect life”—then Governor Whitmer should order the immediate closure of all abortion centers throughout the State. Indeed, there is little doubt that abortion will be responsible for killing more human lives this year in the United States alone than COVID-19 will kill in the entire world during the course of this current pandemic,” he said
The AFLC has also filed a motion that would stop the enforcement of Whitmer’s executive orders while the case is active. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on Apr. 1 and will be heard by Judge Janet T. Neff, who was appointed to the bench by former President George W. Bush.