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Court Rules Refusal to Wear Mask During COVID Not Protected by First Amendment

via CBC News

A federal appeals court ruled that refusing to wear face masks at school board meetings in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic is not protected speech under the First Amendment.

The ruling was made in response to lawsuits brought by individuals who faced retaliation for not wearing masks during public meetings.

The court stated that refusal to wear a mask during a public health emergency does not constitute free speech protected by the First Amendment.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, “A question shadowing suits such as these is whether there is a First Amendment right to refuse to wear a protective mask as required by valid health and safety orders put in place during a recognized public health emergency.”

“Like all courts to address this issue, we conclude there is not,” the ruling continued.

“Skeptics are free to — and did — voice their opposition through multiple means, but disobeying a masking requirement is not one of them,” wrote the court.

“One could not, for example, refuse to pay taxes to express the belief that ‘taxes are theft.’ Nor could one refuse to wear a motorcycle helmet as a symbolic protest against a state law requiring them,” explained the court.

The court also emphasized that individuals have other means to voice opposition, but disobeying a masking requirement is not one of them.

The lawsuits were sent back to a lower court for consideration, and the attorney for the appellants plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

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