Attorney general: Mask mandates are legally defensible

Published 11:49 am Monday, July 27, 2020

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee’s attorney general says mask mandates are constitutionally defensible in an opinion that comes as some county mayors have moved to enact the requirements.
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III wrote in an opinion Friday that for more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that “a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”
Slatery wrote that courts can only overturn orders that have no “real or substantial relation” to protecting public health or are “beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law,” The Tennessean reported.
When determining if a face mask mandate could be unconstitutional, Slatery concludes that the mandate doesn’t amount to a “plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law.”
“Requiring a person to wear a face covering during a comparable public health crisis is no more invasive — indeed is arguably less invasive — than requiring a person to be vaccinated,” Slatery wrote.
Slatery compared mask mandates to challenges of the seat belt law and helmet requirement for motorcyclists. Arguments against these two laws have been rejected with courts finding they are safety measures allowed under the state’s authority.
Following these two cases and their outcomes after appearing before courts, Slatery says it’s likely any legal pushback for mask mandates will reach the same outcome.

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