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"The Constitution is Above My Pay Grade," say Civil Liberty Offending Governors


A few days ago two Michigan police officers visited a mother that had allowed her daughter to play with the child next door in their backyard. They demanded to know why she was not enforcing the governments’ stay at home order. They demanded her name which she refused to give as she “has done nothing wrong.” For this she was cited as being uncooperative. The video of the incident showed them treating her with pure contempt (Tucker Carlson Tonight, May 1, 2020).

This should never happen in America. The Constitution gives government agents no such power.

Given the draconian measures used by Democratic governors denying civil liberties in their states many Americans wonder why the Constitution isn’t protecting them as before. But today elected officials are largely constitutional illiterates as are their constituents. Virtually no one has read fully and recently the less than 10 page document. For years I had to tell students that Democrats overwhelmingly ignore the Constitution and Republicans carry it with them but seldom read it—neither defending it against actions of their own political party.

Hence some governors have turned into little tyrants respecting the 1st Amendment. When Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey was asked if his actions were not violating the Constitution. He answered, “That’s above my pay grade.” But it shouldn’t be! It is Government 101 and all governors took an oath to preserve it. The Constitution required it.

“The Senators and Representative before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath … to support this Constitution” (Article 6, Clause 3 ). All elected leaders and all military personnel swear an oath to preserve the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.

The First Amendment that Democrat governors and some mayors are threatening reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The 14th Amendment made it applicable to all states offices as well.

Simply put, for those with tyrannical tendencies. No governor, legislature (including city and county), congress or president shall make or enforce any law or decree respecting religion, speech, press, or peaceable assembly. Nor may they deny citizens petitioning government for redress of grievances when civil liberties are offended.

We will walk on public places, including beaches, when and where we please. We will attend any church where, when, and in any size allowed by the pastor of the attended congregation as we please. You may not regulate the distance between walking or communicating people. We will wear face coverings at the request of the owner of buildings we visit but not at your order, as you do not own us. You may not require us to stay in our homes or yards. You may not collectively shut down our work places without individual due process. You may not use drones above our heads taking photos and shouting instructions monitoring and enforcing a collective behavior. We are a free people. These rights are not negotiable and do not disappear in times of national emergencies. These rights come from God—not from you. Yes, the Constitution also gives us due process on the parts of the above where contested.

The remainder of Tucker Carlson’s interview with Governor Phil Murphy follows:

Tucker. “Fifteen congregants at a synagogue in New Jersey were arrested and charged for being in a synagogue together. Now the Bill of Rights, as you well know, protects Americans …. right to practice their religion as they see fit and to congregate together to assemble peacefully. By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order? How do you have the power to do that?”

Governor. “That’s above my pay grade Tucker. I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.

Tucker. “Since you are an elected official, a leader in the government, an executive, how do you have the authority to order something that so clearly contravenes the Bill of Rights of the United States, the Constitution? Where do you get the authority to do that?

Governor. “Well here’s the thing. We know we need to stay away from each other, number one. Number two, we do have broad authority within the state. Number three we would never do that without coordinating, discussing and hashing it out with the variety of the leaders of the faiths in New Jersey.

Tucker. “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 this is based, prohibit you from doing this; so you clearly decided that you could do it.

Governor. “We have to find a different way to worship.

Tucker. “Government is not allowed to tell people how to worship” (Tucker Carlson Tonight, April 15, 2020).

Unfortunately the same conversation could have been with almost any of the other 1st Amendment violating governors, or worse, 3rd world dictators.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. Newspapers have permission to publish this column. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit


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