The Steamboat Pilot extensively featured the Steamboat Institute’s position on Colorado’s new mask ordinance and the threat that crises such as the coronavirus post to civil liberties:
Protecting the self, protecting the nation
One of the most vocal residents speaking out against some of the COVID-19 restrictions is Jennifer Schubert-Akin, founder and chief operating officer of The Steamboat Institute, a conservative think tank. Many of her criticisms revolve around the Bill of Rights and certain individual freedoms therein that she argues Americans are losing in the name of public health.
“In general, governments often use crises as the pretense to expand their power at the expense of the general population,” Schubert-Akin said in an email.
In April, she signed a letter along with 96 others asking the Routt County Board of Commissioners to amend the mask order. As the letter to the commissioners said, “your decision seems extraordinarily heavy-handed and intended to sow fear and distrust, rather than to stop the spread of disease.”
Around the same time, a local group of residents and business owners, including Schubert-Akin, created a survey about the local mask requirement. Of the 252 respondents at the time, many of whom were customers, employees and others in the network of contributing businesses, 80% did not support the order, according to the survey.
Of customers, 35% said they had done more shopping in other counties where masks were not a requirement. Many business owners who responded, 70%, said the face mask mandate has negatively impacted their business.
The county conducted its own survey, the results of which were released days after the previous poll. Of the 814 respondents, 75.1% said they feel comfortable wearing face masks at local businesses, according to a county news release.
When it comes to mask requirements, Schubert-Akin’s predominant issue is with the steep fines and jail time that a violator could face. In Routt County, violating the mask requirement could result in up to 18 months in prison or a $5,000 fine, though local law enforcement and the district attorney have said maximum punishments are rarely sought, and the emphasis is on education and compliance.
Regardless of how likely a person would ever face the maximum punishment, Schubert-Akin considers its potential a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Among other things, it prohibits the imposition of “excessive fines.”
Schubert-Akin takes issue with other restrictions she said are being enforced with political preference. She pointed to the gathering limits, a perceived attack on the First Amendment, which have halted many events but have not stopped thousands of people from convening in protests for racial justice and police reform.
These gatherings continue to be a source of concern for certain health officials.
Other medical experts say structural racism is a pandemic in its own right and argue the protests are worth the risk of spreading COVID-19. In June, a group of almost 1,300 health professionals from across the U.S., including a handful from Colorado, signed a letter of support for the protesters, whom they said are calling attention “to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy.”
As Schubert-Akin believes, a more responsible public health approach would rely more on the private sector and individual responsibility to combat COVID-19.
The Steamboat Institute recently published a “Stopping the Stampede on Civil Liberties” tool kit, which Schubert-Akin said is a way for concerned citizens to make their voices heard and urge officials to uphold civil liberties in their pandemic responses.
“The government has a legitimate role in responding to a public health threat, but it must not overreach,” she said.
Read the full article HERE.