An Open Letter to Idaho’s Legislators: Have You Forgotten the Proper Role of Government?

Guest Editorial by Lynn Laird

Dear Idaho legislators:

I am writing this open letter in the hope of sparking serious dialogue about fundamental issues facing our state. As events and ideas have progressed over the past 13 months, I have found that most issues dividing us can be boiled down to one foundational problem, and that problem rests in how we answer the following question: What is the proper role of government?

As elected representatives of the people of Idaho, you probably well-remember the oath you took to support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Idaho. Here is Article I, Sections 1 and 2 from the Idaho State Constitution, otherwise known as the Declaration of Rights:

SECTION 1. INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF MAN. All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.

SECTION 2. POLITICAL POWER INHERENT IN THE PEOPLE. All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the legislature.

I chose to highlight these sections because they are most fundamental to my point. Whether the issue is “mask mandates,” “vaccine passports,” or any other “for the greater good” issue of the day, we must come back to the fundamental principles upon which our nation and state were founded, and that includes the proper role of government. To this end, I call your attention to this phrase of Article I, Section 2 of the Idaho State Constitution: Government is instituted for (the people’s) equal protection and benefit.

Shouldn’t equal protection be your guiding principle as you consider every piece of legislation? I’ve watched and listened as you all debate and ask questions about securing and codifying rights of some individuals under some circumstances, while seeming to miss the larger picture – that the rights of ALL are in need of protection.

What has become clear to me during this legislative session is that good intentions are not good enough. If you say the government cannot require certain things of the people, except for medical facilities or the courts, then what are you really saying? I postulate that this indicates you are forgetting the proper role of government as outlined in our founding documents.

I have been watching in horror as the people who are supposed to be governing our state bicker over what ought to be non-issues. If the government is instituted for the people’s equal protection and benefit, then how can you even consider allowing any institution or person, be it a government agency or a private business, to “require” another free human being to compromise their conscience or their health in order to engage in normal every-day activities?

This begs the question, “Are we truly free human beings in this state?” I would say we are not. We cannot be anything more than slaves if we are unable to freely engage in work, commerce, recreation, assembly, travel, worship, or engage in activities related to our governance or the courts without restriction of the most fundamental of all natural, God-given rights – bodily autonomy.

Some seem to want to allow the government to do whatever it (YOU) deems best for the masses with little to no regard for individual rights. Some of you fight tooth and nail to secure “a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body” when it comes to ending the life of a child inside her body (not her body), but then completely disregard people’s actual right to choose what to do with their own bodies.

Others seem to want to restrict government over-reach in this area, but then say businesses have the right to this same overreach when it comes to employment or commerce.

What I find disturbing is that so many of you seem to play a game of mental gymnastics around the principle of Government being instituted for (the people’s) equal protection and benefit. While most of you readily agree that the government shouldn’t force or mandate things like masks and vaccines, you then back off and say private businesses can do these very things to fellow citizens. You say they can make these things a requirement for employment and/or for customers, because “businesses can do business however they want.”

Really? Can businesses discriminate against people in wheelchairs? Can they discriminate against people with acne? Can they discriminate against people with cancer? Can they discriminate based on skin color or religious belief? Government has made laws against such things. If businesses are not allowed to discriminate against people based on these factors, why would you say they can discriminate against people who have a different perspective on how to take care of their own bodies?

I hope you realize that businesses are now discriminating daily against huge groups of people, and it is likely to get worse if you don’t intervene. People who have issues with their hearts, lungs, mental health, allergies, or skin, or have religious beliefs or concerns of conscience that impact their health choices, are all being discriminated against when trying to receive medical care, shop in stores, or find employment. Yes, there should be as much liberty as possible for businesses to function the way they prefer, but they must not be allowed to harm or discriminate against individuals in the process of exercising their liberty.

Sadly, this is our reality: if someone works in the health care industry, that person has extremely limited options for employment because we now allow the healthcare sector to discriminate against those who don’t walk in lockstep with the current mask and vaccine dogma. And with that, those seeking medical care are also finding it difficult to interface with the medical system. They are being denied care if they don’t submit to some administrator’s policy that violates their freedom to choose how to care for themselves. The most well-known phrase from the Hippocratic oath, “first, do no harm,” now seems to be a relic from the past … a faint memory.

What happens to people’s ability to “enjoy and defend life and liberty; acquire, possess and protect property; pursue happiness and secure safety” (Article I, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution) when they must submit their physical bodies to the will of another just to engage in every-day activities? Some say, “It’s for the greater good.” I postulate that there is no greater good without individual liberty.

Am I truly free if I am not allowed to enter a store without a mask, or if I can’t receive routine or urgent medical care if I can’t wear a mask? If I cannot obtain employment because I am unable to “comply” with a policy that causes me harm, how am I free?

Let me reiterate the foundational premise of government: Government is instituted for the equal protection and benefit of the people. Please note that it does not say, “Government is instituted for the equal protection and benefit of businesses.”

Allow me to underscore the theme of Article I section 1 of the Idaho State Constitution: It is the individual’s right (responsibility) to secure their safety. It is the government’s job to stay out of the way as I pursue my own health and safety and to ensure that no one else infringes upon my right to care for myself.

I close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson at his First Inaugural Address: “A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

As our fellow citizens, who volunteered to serve as our representatives in government, please review among yourselves the proper role of government – to protect the rights of the people. Article I, Section 2 of the Idaho State Constitution is clear: Government is instituted for (the people’s) equal protection and benefit.

Dr. Lynn Laird, Psy.D.

Lynn Laird, Psy.D., is a psychologist specializing in Accelerated Resolution Therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other concerns stemming from trauma. Her practice, Healing Heart Counseling, is in Meridian, Idaho.

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