News Story

ACLU Warned: Don’t Trade Liberty For Security In Epidemic

Michigan attorney general wants more rigorous police enforcement of face mask, other COVID-19 rules

Attorney General Dana Nessel used Twitter recently to blame law enforcement officials for the current increase in COVID-19 cases.

Nessel complained on April 17 that across the state, police were failing to enforce COVID-19 restrictions more rigorously, with not enough penalties imposed upon citizens and businesses for violating them.

Nessel is the top-ranking law enforcement officer in the state, and her comments on Twitter are something the American Civil Liberties Union warned of in during the George W. Bush administration.

In 2008, the ACLU released a report titled “Pandemic Preparedness, The Need For A Public Health – Not A Law Enforcement/National Security – Approach.”

The report reads like it might have been drafted this year, with its warnings that government approaches to a potential “new, deadly strain of avian influenza” should raise concerns among Americans.

The ACLU stated, “Too often, policymakers are resorting to law enforcement and national security-oriented measures that not only suppress individual rights unnecessarily, but have proven to be ineffective in stopping the spread of disease and saving lives.”

The report continued: “Rather than focusing on well-established measures for protecting the lives and health of Americans, policymakers have recently embraced an approach that views public health policy through the prism of national security and law enforcement. This model assumes that we must ‘trade liberty for security.’ As a result, instead of helping individuals and communities through education and provision of health care, today’s pandemic prevention focuses on taking aggressive, coercive actions against those who are sick. People, rather than the disease, become the enemy. ... Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated rather than slowed the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots. ... The lessons from history should be kept in mind whenever we are told by government officials that ‘tough,’ liberty-limiting actions are needed to protect us from dangerous diseases.”

Now, 13 years later, Michigan’s attorney general compared an easily transmittable virus to a serial killer.

“I have long compared this situation to that of a serial murderer on the loose but instead of helping to track down the killer, law enforcement announces that efforts by the government to have residents lock their doors and windows is a tyrannical action,” Nessel tweeted on April 17.

This illustrates the kind of official behavior the ACLU warned of in 2008.

“As long as public officials are working to help people rather than to punish them, people are likely to engage willingly in any and all efforts to keep their families and communities healthy,” its report stated.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.