Constitution not a suicide pact, allowing us to ignore duties

In 1949, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson asserted that “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” His perspective reflected concerns of government officials throughout American history. The gist of his statement is that our constitutional protections often conflict and require balance in favor of healthy, non-violent existence; in giving priority to a greater constitutional good. No rights are absolute, let alone all of the time. I believe Justice Jackson’s statement goes to the heart of our conflict between government protection from Covid-19, an extremely dangerous virus, and people who claim that government enforcement of those same protections violates a constitutional right. These people use the “right” to justify ignoring the science that guides government protections.

The Founders were strong advocates of science. They used science in both framing the Constitution and planning the Republic. Science is often essential to constitutional guidance. It is a must in modern life. “Epidemiology” is the science we most immediately depend on for our protection from Covid-19. Epidemiologists are literally saving lives of those who follow their recommended protections. They are the ones whom responsible government officials turn to; who know that the protections also save lives of others. Wearing a face mask and doing social distancing is not that much to ask. Nor is it much to ask of employers, who have a legal obligation to protect employees and customers. When citizens refuse to adhere to the recommended protections, on the basis of some constitutional right, they simply enter into Justice Jackson’s metaphorical “suicide pact.”

David A. Shively

Snohomish

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, July 7

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Editorial: What history is owed through our monuments

The decisions regarding whom we honor in our public squares require deliberation and consensus.

Comment: Our leaders squandered our efforts to control Covid

While we sheltered in place, federal and state leaders wasted their chance to develop a response.

Comment: Jimmy Carter’s role in creating the modern veepstakes

Carter turned the selection of a running mate into a campaign event, then went with a safe bet.

Covid changes will be toughest on high school juniors

I will be a senior in high school this coming September. While… Continue reading

Face masks are not a limitation of freedom

The sign “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” has been in place… Continue reading

Why is Kartak running against Lovick?

John Kartak has hastily announced he is running for representative of Washington’s… Continue reading

Woodard will be advocate for health in 44th LD

Now is the time to elect people like us to represent our… Continue reading

Editorial cartoons for Monday, July 6

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Most Read