Barr Memo: 'The Constitution Is Not Suspended in Times of Crisis'

Posted: Apr 28, 2020 8:30 AM
Barr Memo: 'The Constitution Is Not Suspended in Times of Crisis'

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Attorney General Bill Barr warned Monday that even in a time of crisis “the Constitution is not suspended.”

In a memo written to U.S. attorneys, Barr urged them to watch for “state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

The Department of Justice recently issued guidance on the First Amendment as it relates to discrimination against religious institutions after a number of churches were targeted for holding drive-in worship services that adhered to social distancing guidelines.

“The legal restrictions on state and local authority are not limited to discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” he said. “For example, the Constitution also forbids, in certain circumstances, discrimination against disfavored speech and undue interference with the national economy. 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.”

He said the DOJ will be monitoring state and local policies and will “take action to correct them” where necessary. 

“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Barr said. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected.”

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