In an extraordinary interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that he didn’t concern himself with the Bill of Rights when imposing his stay-at-home orders on the citizens of the Garden State. Murphy, a Democrat, said that he was solely concerned with stopping the spread of the coronavirus, regardless of how that might impact the freedoms and rights of his constituents.
Carlson challenged Murphy over synagogue attendees who were arrested by police and charged with violating the social distancing orders.
“Now, the Bill of Rights, as you well know, protects Americans’ right, enshrines their right to practice their religion as they see fit and to congregate together, to assemble peacefully,” Carlson said. “By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order? How do you have the power to do that?”
Murphy took a remarkably flippant approach to the question.
“That’s above my pay grade, Tucker,” Murphy said. “I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”
“I can tell,” quipped Carlson.
Murphy continued, explaining how data and science led him to impose the orders. When he was finished answering, however, Carlson returned to his original question: “How do you have the authority to order something that is so clearly contravenes the Bill of Rights of the United States, the U.S. Constitution. Where do you get the authority to do that?”
“Well, here is the thing,” Murphy replied. “We know we need to stay away from each other, number one. Number two, we do have broad authority within the state. And number three, we would never do that without coordinating, discussing, and hashing it out with the leaders, the variety of the leaders of the faiths in New Jersey.”
In other words, hey, we’re going to do whatever we want, regardless of what the U.S. Constitution happens to say. Apparently our liberties are suspended when there is a disease spreading. Or hell, they simply go away when the governor of a state isn’t interested enough in the Bill of Rights to even bother giving them a consideration. Who knew?
“I’m sure you talk to every rabbi and priest, but there is a deeper question here,” Carlson pressed. “I’m just going to ask you one last time because it’s important. I’m sure you’ve thought about this. You can’t just as the governor of a state, tell people who they can talk to when and where because the Constitution of the United States, upon which all of this is based, prohibits you from doing that. So you clearly decided that you could do it. Did you consult an attorney about this, because this is a legal question as well as a medical one, isn’t it?”
Murphy said yes, but then he pivoted to a conversation he’d had with a New Jersey cardinal who supported his position.
So, there you have it. The Bill of Rights is too esoteric and old for a governor to worry about, and you can settle matters of constitutional law by getting the go-ahead from an official in the Catholic church!
The coronavirus is teaching us so much about how the law works.