McConnell: Some Governments ‘Acting Like the Coronavirus Discriminates Based on the Content’ of Speech

During a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused some governments of “acting like the coronavirus discriminates based on the content of people’s speech.” And said that it’s “now impossible to avoid the conclusion that local and state leaders are using their power to encourage constitutionally-protected conduct which they personally appreciate, while continuing to ban constitutionally-protected conduct which they personally feel is less important.”

McConnell said, “For weeks, state and local leaders put normal American life totally on ice and asked citizens to prioritize fighting the virus. For weeks, the mainstream media heaped scorn on any small citizen protest, outdoor gathering, or even the suggestion that other important values might require a reappraisal of certain restrictions. Well, the American people did their part. They made necessary sacrifices that clearly helped the country, and they’re ready to continue doing their part as our re-opening carefully proceeds. But now, many Americans feel they’ve just seen those fastidious regulations and that puritanical zeal disappear in an instant because a new cause has emerged that powerful people agree with.”

He continued, “A month ago, small protest demonstrations were widely condemned as reckless and selfish. Now, massive rallies, that fill entire cities, are not just praised, but in fact, are called especially brave because of the exact same health risks that brought condemnation when the cause was different. People just spent the spring watching their small businesses dissolve, or canceling weddings, or missing religious observances for the longest spells in their lives, or missing the last days of a loved one’s life and then missing the funeral. Never were the American people told about any exemption for things they felt strongly about. I have no criticism for the millions of Americans who peacefully demonstrated in recent days. Their cause is beyond righteous. It is the inconsistency from leaders that has been baffling.”

McConnell then pointed to Michigan, Washington, D.C., and “one county in California’s Bay Area” that last week “attempted to issue guidance that allowed protests of 100 people but still, still capped all other social gatherings at 12 people and banned outdoor religious gatherings” before stating that “These governments are acting like the coronavirus discriminates based on the content of people’s speech. But alas, it’s only the leaders themselves who are doing that. It is now impossible to avoid the conclusion that local and state leaders are using their power to encourage constitutionally-protected conduct which they personally appreciate, while continuing to ban constitutionally-protected conduct which they personally feel is less important.”

McConnell specifically cited New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) comments on protests and religious services.

He added, “Politicians do not get to play red-light, green-light within the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights is not some a-la-carte menu that leaders may sample as they please. It’s hard to see any rational set of rules by which mass protests should continue to be applauded but small, careful religious services should continue to be banned.”

(h/t Grabien)

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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