State of Michigan Busybodies Claim Hillsdale’s Graduation Ceremony “Broke the Law”
Despite complying with Michigan’s Wuhan virus order at its graduation ceremony last weekend, Hillsdale College was accused of breaking the law when it decided to host celebrations in person.
Greg Piper of the College Fix reported that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel delegated enforcement responsibilities to local police.
According to The Detroit News, Hillsdale “required everyone to wear a mask,” took guests’ temperatures and had them seated six feet apart, and instructed them not to walk around at “some events” during the three-day event.
Graduate Arena Lewis, was caught by surprise by the event’s strict guidelines:
I hardly ever see kids without masks on. I think everyone’s being very compliant and obeying out of Christian charity and love for everyone else.
Whitmer declared that she was “gravely concerned” that Hillsdale was holding this event, while Nessel’s office asserted that the college was in violation of local restrictions on “organized” gatherings of more than 100 people, according to a report from the News. Nessel’s spokesperson stated that the college demonstrated a “lack of consideration” with the celebration, and that “we trust the local law enforcement agencies to exercise their authority and discretion in their enforcement efforts.”
Hillsdale County Sheriff Tim Parker did not bother to enforce this order then and beforehand. Parker informed the News his office has never enforced Whitmer’s Wuhan virus orders and would not give people at the graduation ceremonies citations.
The college released at least four press releases highlighting Wuhan virus precautions that should be taken during graduation and the legality of the in-person ceremonies under the governor’s orders and the federal and state constitutions.
The first release on July 16 said that the university had talked with “health officials, epidemiologists, city officials, state government, and law enforcement officials,” including Whitmer’s office beginning on June 12, over a month before the rescheduled commencement.
In addition, the county’s prosecuting attorney informed the university that its commencement activities were “protected by the U.S. Constitution and Michigan Constitution,” and that Whitmer’s order outlines a specific exemption for “constitutionally protected conduct” such as attending commencement, Hillsdale stated.
Another release from that same day broke down the First Amendment justification for holding the commencement and the many health and safety precautions Hillsdale was taking:
Hillsdale College’s Commencement is an ‘expressive activity’ protected by the First Amendment. It is a ceremony rich with symbolism and meaning. Since 1856, the College has exercised those rights by holding annual commencement exercises–including during the Civil War, World War I, the 1918 Pandemic, the Great Depression, and World War II. Despite the trauma of those times, which have been particularly severe on this campus, Hillsdale College has stood by the ceremony as the culminating meaning of the work of the College and as indispensable to its mission.
On July 17, it said four “renowned epidemiologists” had talked with the college about its commencement plans, including Stanford University’s Jay Bhattacharya, whose early research indicated that the Wuhan virus was far less lethal than originally prognosticated and who has criticized testing practices for their tendency to overestimate the death counts.
“If the private benefits of the event are important enough relative to the public health risks and care is taken by event organizers to minimize those risks by adhering to the extent possible to safe practice guidelines promulgated by public health authorities, then the event should receive approval by public health experts,” Bhattacharya stated.
“The Hillsdale plan adheres to [CDC and WHO] guidelines to a much greater extent than other similar gatherings,” he added.
Hillsdale took a shot at Whitmer by pointing to the governor’s participation in a June 4 Black Lives Matter march where she obviously broke from any social distancing practices by kneeling close to other participants:
The governor took part in one herself (which did not comply with CDC guidelines), and afterwards, her spokesperson said that was an appropriate thing for the governor to do because it had been an expressive First Amendment event. We agree.
The News said Whitmer’s march had very “little social distancing,” as witnessed in the photos that show Whitmer staying close together with other participants.
However, her spokesperson asserted that the governor was not in violation of her own order due to the fact that she “took precautions for engaging in an outdoor activity, including wearing a mask even though it is not required outdoors under the order.”
It is amusing to see how right-wing groups get placed under the microscope for violating Wuhan virus related guidelines, while the Left can get away with doing whatever it wants.
Right wingers will need to forge alliances with local law enforcement and bureaucratic bodies to ensure that their activities don’t get shutdown.