LAW FIRM SAYS ONE IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL, THE OTHER ILLEGAL
Posted at 12:40 p.m. on August 19, 2021
The Brillion News
MILWAUKEE – The conservative think tank and public interest law firm WILL (Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty) took two actions on Thursday, August 19, both accusing agencies of overreaching their authority in orders related to the COVID-19 disease.
One action is an original lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin against Janel Heinrich, head of the Madison and Dane County Public Health department.
On Tuesday, August 17, Heinrich issued an order requiring everyone aged two years or older to wear a face covering in any enclosed space open to the public – including schools, churches and businesses.
The other action is a letter of warning, sent to the Mequon-Thiensville School District, warning it to withdraw an element of its face-covering order for students. The district said anyone claiming a religious exemption to the order to mask up must have an excuse from a religious leader.
WILL attorney Daniel Lennington said that’s unconstitutional and must be rescinded.
“A sincerely held religious belief doesn’t need to be held or advanced by a particular religious institution or leader,” Lennington wrote to school superintendent Matthew Joynt. “In fact, a constitutionally protected religious belied could be held just by a single person.”
The letter demands that the district immediately change its requirement for people who claim a religious exemption to masking rules.
In similar cases involving WILL, the firm has filed lawsuits against government agencies refusing to change their practices.
The suit filed with the state Supreme Court is similar to one that was filed a year ago, also against Heinrich, and over masking COVID restrictions.
In the 2020 case,. Heinrich claimed unfettered authority to issue health orders, but when she ordered private schools to close because of COVID, WILL sued and won.
“Dane County and the City of Madison have granted near limitless legislative power to their local health officer to do whatever she seems ‘reasonable and necessary’ to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” the August 18, 2021, suit said. “She seized power in May 2020 and has since ruled the city and county by decree ...”
The suit, filed by WILL on behalf of a Sun Prairie man, asks the Supreme Court to issue an immediate temporary injunction suppressing the order and its enforcement, and then a permanent injunction to quash it when the high court makes its final ruling on the powers of the city-county health officer.
As an alternative, WILL wants the city and county ordinances giving broad power to the health officer illegal because they grant her powers without duration, limit or oversight by the elected county board or city council.
Heinrich’s order also requires that every “enclosed” place in the county create a policy with the same restrictions, provide masks to employees, and post signs from the county ordering masks.
~ Ed Byrne/BN from original documents