Attorney General Bill Barr has ordered U.S. attorneys to take steps to protect the constitutional rights and civil liberties of Americans during the coronavirus crisis, according to a memorandum released Monday.
The memorandum titled “Balancing Public Safety with the Preservation of Civil Rights” asks U.S. attorneys to be on the “lookout” for abuses of powers from government officials. (RELATED: Flashback: Jan.21: Fauci Says Coronavirus ‘Not A Major Threat’ To U.S.)
“As the Department of Justice explained recently in guidance to states and localities taking steps to battle the pandemic, even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Barr wrote.
“For example, the Constitution also forbids, in certain circumstances, discrimination against disfavored speech and undue interference with the national economy,” Barr continued. “If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court. ”
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) April 27, 2020
The memorandum comes weeks after Easter, when some state and local officials attempted to shut down church services and other celebrations. (RELATED: How The Coronavirus Is Infecting Americans’ Civil Liberties)
Barr expressed concerns earlier this month about “draconian” coronavirus restrictions being placed on the public, and said he would like to see them lifted by May 1.
“We have to be very careful to make sure this, that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified, and there are not alternative ways of protecting people,” Barr told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham at the time.