Appeals court rules mask refusal during pandemic not protected as free speech
After two years, a New Jersey Court of Appeals issued a ruling regarding not wearing face masks during the coronavirus epidemic. According to its decision, the right to free speech does not eliminate liability for covering the face.
According to the Associated Press, the case involved George Falcone and Gwyneth Murray-Nolan. In early 2022, Falcone came to the Freehold Township school board and refused to put on a mask despite the mask mandate being in place. The same situation occurred with Murray-Nolan, who similarly violated the law at Cranford School. Both were then charged with trespassing, which led to them suing the school authorities, but lower courts dismissed the charges. Both appealed.
On Monday, February 6, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in New Jersey found that both people had violated the law and were not protected by the First Amendment's freedom of speech.
"A question shadowing suits such as these is whether there is a First Amendment right to refuse to wear a protective mask as required by valid health and safety orders during a recognized public health emergency. Like all courts to address this issue, we conclude there is not", states the court, quoted by Associated Press.
"Skeptics are free to — and did — voice their opposition through multiple means, but disobeying a masking requirement is not one of them," the court added. "One could not, for example, refuse to pay taxes to express the belief that 'taxes are theft.' Nor could one refuse to wear a motorcycle helmet as a symbolic protest against a state law requiring them."
However, Ronald Berutti, an attorney of Falcone and Murray-Nolan, announced he would petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case.