The majority of our states, counties, and cities across the nation are in the midst of a nationwide public health emergency as a result of the Coronavirus.  In response to fighting the virus and protecting the public health, stay-at-home orders were issued, limits on public gatherings were established, and social distancing requirements were instituted. The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives states all powers, not specifically given to the federal government, allowing states the authority to take public health emergency actions which include setting quarantines and implementing restrictions on the general public.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  These freedoms are fundamental to our democracy and cannot be sacrificed in times of a public health emergency. The ongoing pandemic cannot be used to justify the suspension of First Amendment rights. 

Are the public health restrictions at odds with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as we see our nation in the midst of another crisis as a result of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police?   Can the government override or infringe on the First Amendment rights with orders to limit our freedoms of public assemblies and public protection during the pandemic?   Was it proper for the government to limit attendance at church services in light of the freedom of religion?

As our nation faces two crises, one being the COVID-19 pandemic and the second being the demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality, our nation is at a critical point of unrest, especially when both of these crises collide. No one can deny that both of these issues are serious and need a call to action.  There is much debate over the measures that need to be taken by each side of the argument, but Americans should not be forced to surrender their First Amendment freedoms in light of a global pandemic; nor should the government give up on their obligation to protect public health and safety.  

Upholding First Amendment liberties does not need to be at odds with the government’s authority and obligation to protect public health and safety. Limitations on public gatherings and social distancing requirements were imposed, but they were not an outright ban on all movement within our communities.  The restrictions simply call for social distancing, wearing of masks and limits the size of gatherings, but does not ban public assembly or protest entirely. Governments have the legal authority to regulate the manner in which public protests can occur, including the time, location, and manner in which the protest or assembly will occur.  In fact, religious gatherings were the subject of much debate during the pandemic but now those restrictions are now more open.  It is interesting to see how this has played out where there currently appears to be no enforcement against the pending demonstrations.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a real threat to public health, but it should not be a reason for long-term damage to our core freedoms.  The Right to Assemble does not grant the right to loot or riot causing damage to other citizens and businesses.  On the other hand, the First Amendment grants us the freedoms essential to maintaining democracy and exercising our process rights.   

Written by Jackie L. Sulich

Sterk Family Law Group is here to assist you

We are aware that everyone has been affected by the recent response to COVID-19 but we hope that you find some comfort in knowing that we are still operational and here to assist you.

Whether you are a current client or if you are looking for family law or estate planning assistance, our team is here for you and will continue to be available to address your concerns.

To the extent possible, we will offer remote consultations and provide services from a distance.

You may message us here, email our office at, or call 815-600-8950 and one of our team members will be able to assist you.

This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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