This appears to be the first case in the United States where a mask mandate against Covid-19 has been declared unconstitutional.
In Alachua County, Florida, an attorney representing Justin Green, owner of a plant nursery, brought suit last March after Alachua County commissioners passed an order that required all employees and customers in Alachua to wear masks in businesses.
Even though Green lost his initial court case against mandatory masks, he appealed through his legal council, Jeff Childers. And the Judges in the First District have now spoken: Governmental mask mandates in the 32 counties in the First District of Florida are unconstitutional. The decision is binding on government entities within the 1st Judicial District of Florida.
Childers said after the ruling that the City of Gainesville can no longer force its employees wear face masks if they are not vaccinated. “They can’t make citizens wear masks to get into City Hall. Nor can Shands, or UF, or Santa Fe College, or K-12 public schools, and so on. If they persist, they will be in defiance of the law.”
In his ruling, Judge Tanenbaum highlighted that “the right to be let alone by government does exist in Florida, as part of a right of privacy that our supreme court has declared to be fundamental… As we are about to explain, the supreme court has construed this fundamental right to be so broad as to include the complete freedom of a person to control his own body. Under this construction, a person reasonably can expect not to be forced by the government to put something on his own face against his will”.
Tanenbaum’s assertion echoed the right of privacy in the Florida Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, which states in part: “Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein”.
The judge concluded: “It would behoove the trial court also to consider that while article I, section 23 ‘was not intended to provide an absolute guarantee against all governmental intrusion into the private life of an individual,’… ‘even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten’…”
The lawsuit was originally filed on May 8, 2020, only days after the then-Chair of the Alachua County Commission, instituted a county-wide mask mandate.
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