Anti-LGBTQ wingnut activist Dr. Steven Hotze is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more. He’s tired of these godless liberals making laws to oppress Christians under the cover of some supposed “public health crisis.” So he’s appealing to a higher power, in this case, the Supreme Court of Texas, for an emergency Writ of Mandamus, overruling Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s March 24 stay-at-home order, which closes churches and gun shops during the coronavirus pandemic.
Because it is the sacred right of American Christians to assemble, shoulder-to-shoulder in time of plague. And also to buy guns. Thus sayeth the Lord. Amen.
“If the Order is allowed to remain in place, the harm to individuals, businesses, the general public, people of faith, and the fundamental rights guaranteed to Harris County residents under the United States and Texas Constitutions would be impossible to undo,” reads Hotze’s petition, filed with three local pastors, who contend that their flocks cannot possibly wait until after the pandemic to assemble in worship and top off their arsenals.
Hotze has long railed against “homofascists,” referred to Caitlyn Jenner as “Bruce Degenerate,” and once recorded a song called “God Fearing Texans Stop Obamacare.” On February 27, the doctor recorded a video for his YouTube channel calling COVID-19 “completely insignificant compared to the influenza virus,” and warning that, “The mainstream media (MSM) is creating an irrational fear over the coronavirus, attempting to herd you like sheep.” He’s currently flogging a $125 “Immune Pak,” which he promised on Facebook “would also help you prevent yourself from getting the flu, coronavirus, or any other viral or bacterial infection.” Or if you’re in the market to enhance male libido, check out his latest tweet.
Hotze’s legal arguments appear to consist of shouting WHAT ABOUT THE FLU? and accusing Judge Hidalgo of picking “winners and losers.” Bizarrely, Hotze’s “winners” are the janitorial staff, risking coronavirus as they sanitize our supermarkets, while the “losers” are the Christian faithful, forced to watch sermons online from the safety of their living rooms. Harris County has at least 254 identified cases of COVID-19, but the doctor can envision no “compelling government interest” to justify this infringement on the right of religious people to assemble.
Similarly, Hotze accuses Judge Hidalgo of unlawfully abridging the right to bear arms, which apparently includes the right to buy and sell guns all day, every day, pandemic be damned.
Shuttering access to firearms necessarily shutters the Constitutional right to those arms. By forcing Harris County’s duly licensed and authorized gun dealers/stores to close, Judge Hidalgo is foreclosing the only lawful means to buy, sell, and transfer firearms and ammunition available to typical, law-abiding residents of Harris County, Texas. Such a de facto prohibition on the right to keep and bear arms is categorically unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.
Hotze’s complaint was filed by Texas attorney Jared Woodfill, the former Harris County Republican Party Chair, who was publicly reprimanded by the state bar’s Commission for Lawyer Discipline in 2018 and fined $3,490 for professional misconduct. This case here, though, is totally on the up and up.
Texas Pastors, Right-Wing Activist Mount Constitutional Challenge to Stay-At-Home Order [Law & Crime]
Right-wing media coronavirus expert is a QAnon supporter who suggested the “deep state” orchestrated the pandemic [Media Matters]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.