Next up in the latest round of ‘rona ridiculousness: Gov. Brad Little told a telephone townhall audience Tuesday that it’s “too risky” for youngsters to be out and about this Halloween, dressing up, trick-or-treating, and whatnot as they normally do on Oct. 31. During the same conference call, Little’s chief of epidemiology also suggested that Halloween activities need to be canceled to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“None of us want to be the Grinch that steals Halloween,” said Dr. Christine Hahn. As if she and the governor could. But it sure sounds like they'll try.
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Asked to explain why Halloween is off limits while youngsters are simultaneously encouraged to return to school classrooms, the governor said: “Halloween is not our constitution. Halloween is not what we do to advance education.”
True, Halloween is not explicitly mentioned by the Idaho Constitution, though that sacred document recognizes Idahoans’ right to enjoy liberty. But, the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are among those God-given gifts that have been, heretofore, protected by the United States Constitution. However, those rights find themselves frequently abused and upended in the era of pandemic panic.
Even still, that doesn’t explain why classrooms are considered low-risk but Halloween is viewed as high risk. Maybe for the same reason rallies in support of liberty are high risk and Black Lives Matter rallies are not. Clever little virus.
Hahn, speaking as both an epidemiologist and thought leader for five-year-olds, said, “If my parents had just given me a bag of candy and then I got to dress up I probably would’ve been just as happy and maybe there’s creative ways to do that without so much risk.”
And so it looks like the next fight on the docket is whether Halloween is simply discouraged or banned by the government. My bet this year is that someone, be it Little, an out-of-control mayor, or a rogue health district, will try to stop Halloween activities within their jurisdiction. The only question is who will be the first to inflict such an overreach on Idahoans.
The threat of government action, or actual action, to limit our liberty is getting as old as it is out of hand. By all measures, the number of positive Covid tests and deaths (dubious as those counts increasingly are) continue to decline. The once-stated goal of “bending the curve” was long ago accomplished, but we continue to endure ever more the imposition of restrictions on our economic and personal liberties.
Two days before Little took aim at Halloween during the conference call, a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, had acted beyond his constitutional authority when he shut down the state, closed businesses, and limited gatherings.
U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV ruled that the Pennsylvania governor had violated Keystone State residents’ rights of assembly, due process, and equal protection.
Though the governor’s actions were well-intentioned, the judge explained, “even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”
“There is no question that this country has faced and will face, emergencies of every sort,” Stickman wrote. “But the solution to a national crisis can never be permitted to supersede the commitment to individual liberty that stands as the foundation of the American experiment.”
I share the judge’s sentiments. Parents, not the governor, mayors, public health boards, nor state medical “experts” should decide if Idaho children enjoy traditional Halloween activities this year.
So parents, stand up, take charge, and dress up your goblins, ghouls and princesses if you wish. Otherwise, prepare to be haunted beyond Halloween by a government that believes it can make your decisions for you. And that’s no treat.
Note: The original version of this column stated that Gov. Brad Little commented on Halloween on Wednesday, Sept. 16. The copy has been updated to reflect the correct date. IFF regrets the error.