Virginia Gov. Northam’s Coronavirus Orders Spur Resistance in ‘First Amendment Sanctuaries’

Let’s get one thing straight: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is many things, but he is no tyrant.

That shouldn’t need to be said, particularly of a lame-duck incumbent whose political career and influence will end when his successor is inaugurated in 2022.

But, apparently, it does need to be said, because there are those in the commonwealth who believe Northam’s Nov. 13 executive order instituting stricter limits on gatherings, an expended mask mandate and penalties for businesses that ignore the order is hard evidence he’s little more than modern day Lord Dunmore.

Activists are urging local governments to pass so-called “nullification resolutions” that attempt to follow the path scores of Virginia localities blazed a year ago when they adopted various resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

These new First Amendment sanctuary declarations, however, contain a few disturbing twists. The biggest of them all: a threat to defund local law enforcement if they enforce Northam’s orders.

Text of a proposed resolution posted by WSET-TV shows it ordering the local sheriff to arrest any state or federal law enforcement officials as well as any health officials who attempt to enforce the “unconstitutional order of the Governor.” If the sheriff refuses, the result will be the “immediate removal of County funding.”

Not content with defunding the police (which we were told was a bad thing that only bad people intending to do bad things endorsed), the resolution moves on to instruct the commonwealth’s attorney to not prosecute anyone who defies Northam’s restrictions on gathering sizes. Failure to do so will result in — you guessed it — a loss of all county funding.

The Campbell County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a watered-down version of this model resolution that avoids the prickly constitutional issues of a county board threatening the workings of other constitutional officers.

The Lynchburg News & Advance’s Sarah Honosky reported “Sunburst District Supervisor Steve Shockley said [the resolution] is a largely symbolic gesture, one that supervisors hope will be heard by local legislators, and spread statewide.”

And “largely symbolic” is likely as far as these and other such resolutions will get. In that regard, they serve a valuable purpose: allowing grievances to be aired but without the bizarre and most definitely unconstitutional baggage in the model language.

The symbolic resolutions also raise a point worth further discussion: Are there limits to what any Virginia governor can do in an emergency?

All Virginia governors are granted broad authority in the state code to respond to emergencies. Various court challenges to Northam’s orders have failed to overturn them. There have been exceptions, including on gathering limits for churches. But the overwhelming legal consensus is that the orders are within Northam’s power, and are constitutional.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

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