Dear Republican Leaders:
We are writing to you as both concerned American citizens and members of the clergy. We are circulating this letter to other citizens and clergy across New Jersey.
A civil rights attorney recently made the point that our founders were intimately familiar with pandemics, viruses and plagues, living at a time before the life-extending science that we benefit from today. Nevertheless, there is not one word in the Constitution about plagues or pandemics to exempt the government from any of our Bill of Rights. The founders of our Republic did not allow for a “health crisis” or “medical emergency” as an excuse to suspend our Constitutional liberties.
Our Bill of Rights is under attack by a number of misguided state executives – including Governor Phil Murphy – who are embracing authoritarian measures under color of law. Our Constitution is being quarantined as if a virus has made it irrelevant. Can a virus do that? Can a panic – stoked by the media – negate every protection we enjoy as citizens of a Republic? Is this the way democracy dies?
Every citizen should be concerned about how quickly and with gusto this Governor has moved to forcibly strip us of our freedoms. Where is the American Civil Liberties Union? Where are the liberal voices of good conscience in Governor Murphy’s own party?
As leaders of the opposition party in New Jersey, the Republican Party, we ask that you provide the checks and balances needed at a moment like this. We ask that you aggressively press Governor Murphy and hold him to account for his attack on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States of America.
Governor Murphy has suspended the First Amendment by issuing “lock-down” orders and “curfews” that prohibit obtaining a petition for public protest or public assemblies. He has infringed on the free practice of religion. These are black letter violations of the Law of this Republic.
Governor Murphy has suspended the Second Amendment under the guise of a “mandatory shut-down” of all “nonessential businesses” and by barring citizen access to the online means to obtain legal permits. Worse still, he has done so while releasing thousands of convicted criminals from prison, at a time of food shortages, in the midst of a crisis that has stretched law enforcement readiness and increased response times.
Governor Murphy has suspended the Fourth Amendment by asking neighbor to spy upon neighbor and using taxpayer funds to create a system by which reports may be filed and acted upon outside the normal legal process, which has been severely curtailed. Under color of law, the Governor has employed his appointed Attorney General to threaten, coerce, and compel individuals and communities into ceding their protected liberties to the government. He has criminalized heretofore everyday private and peaceful activities, and has done so with the knowledge that every interaction between law enforcement and citizens carries with it the possibility of a fatality. Just ask Eric Garner.
Governor Murphy has suspended the Fifth Amendment – the right to property without deprivation by due process of law, and the obligation of government to compensate for such takings. He has issued authoritarian mandates destroying the means of legal commerce, that close businesses without appeal, making workers redundant, and leaving families without the means of survival. Worse, he has done so while continuing to collect taxes on the property and extant funds left to those made unemployed and whose lives will soon be unsustainable.
As religious leaders who both suffer and who minister every day to those suffering, we urge the opposition party to stand up to the authoritarianism of Governor Murphy and to assert our rights under the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill of Rights. There must be checks and balances in place to the Governor’s reckless and ruinous abuse of power.
Please hear our prayer.
Pastor Philip Rizzo
Rev. Gregory Quinlan