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We’ve always protested against public health mandates
Throughout the United States, there are communities and state governments who have come out strongly against mask or vaccine mandates, even while the Delta variant of the coronavirus rages through the unvaccinated.
But Syracuse University assistant professor Kyla Garrett Wagner, who studies the relationships between public health and the First Amendment, says that laws and protests against masks and vaccines are part of a long history of people protesting against public health mandates.
From seatbelt laws to anti-smoking ordinances to requiring helmets when riding a motorcycle, there are precedents to people fighting public health and safety laws, she says.
“What do mask and vaccine mandates have in common with smoking bans and seatbelt laws? They all are examples of lawful government regulation to protect public health,” said Wagner. “In a country that prioritizes individual liberties more than most, it can seem questionable when U.S. law mandates and/or outlaws specific health behaviors. “
“But in fact, it’s quite commonplace for both state and federal governments to compromise and even sacrifice individual liberties for the purposes of protecting public health. Why? Because, sometimes, that’s what the pursuit of Life and Liberty demands – the compromise and sacrifice of one for the protection of the other.
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