For nearly a year, the government put our constitutional freedoms on hold in the name of fighting a pandemic. Businesses and organizations had to shutter their doors without any due process. Despite the guarantee to free exercise, middling functionaries of the state told churches and other houses of worship to stop gathering. Freedom of assembly was canceled outright with not so much as a whimper of protest. If you ask me, these freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution should not be so easily discarded. As cases drop and vaccinations rise, we must focus on restoring the God-given liberty of Missourians to enjoy our lives free from government hectoring.
There are still roadblocks on the path to a free and open Missouri, and our elected leaders must work swiftly to remove these hurdles. In particular, the looming specter of frivolous COVID lawsuits creates a chilling effect on the free operation of our churches, businesses, and schools. Missouri law must clearly state that contracting COVID cannot be the basis for hauling restaurant owners, preachers, and doctors into court.
Imagine the ease with which a person could bring these claims: That person gets sick and then sues every single establishment he voluntarily visited. All of the venues Missourians want to visit will then be faced with the false choice of either remaining closed or being sued. We cannot allow this to happen.
That is why Missouri should join many other conservative states in enacting COVID liability protections, like those under consideration in SB 51. SB 51 protects all sectors of our economy from frivolous lawsuits by ensuring that local schools, businesses, churches, and hospitals are not unfairly targeted.
Meanwhile, SB 51 is a win for free exercise; it guarantees churches with the highest degree of protection from COVID liability anywhere in the nation. This means our churches, pastors, and congregants can focus on adhering to their faith instead of costly discovery and motions for summary judgment. At the same time, the bill guarantees strong protections to individual autonomy by preserving the right to decline any COVID vaccine. Under SB 51, the government cannot force you to get a vaccine you may not want.
As a result, this bill has liberals madder than when we put Amy Coney Barrett on the U.S. Supreme Court. They are doing everything they can to twist facts and confuse people about COVID liability reform. The simple fact remains that SB 51 means fewer lawsuits and more freedom for Missourians who want to get back to normal.
My grandparents left Italy to escape tyranny. I’m not sure they would recognize America today. I, for one, am tired of being told what to do by the nanny state and their allies in the legal community. That’s not the country our founding fathers fought to create. It’s time for a return to an open society where we can assemble by our own choosing. SB 51 is an important step toward that end and the legislature should act to pass it into law.
Phil Christofanelli is a Republican state representative who serves HD 105 in St. Charles County. He is the chairman of the House Rules – Legislative Oversight Committee.