Volusia County Council will consider whether to pass a resolution declaring the county a “Bill of Rights shrine” at its Tuesday meeting, and records reveal how county lawyers argued with questions about the constitutionality of the approach.
County President Jeff Brower proposed the measure after voicing concerns about the possibility of public health officials going door-to-door to offer the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We must be registered as giving our word,” Brower wrote to the county attorney in July. “If the board decides to vote against a clear statement that protecting their right is our goal, the public should know. “
President Joe Biden said in July door-to-door vaccination campaign could be part of the federal strategy to help encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. However, such sensitization did not take place.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are at a absolute record in Florida, Volusia County alone reported 5,683 new cases of COVID-19 last week. This is more than double the previous peak in January.
Public health officials and hospital officials attribute the peak to the highly contagious delta variant and the high number of people still unvaccinated.
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The News-Journal obtained all emails mentioning the sanctuary’s resolution in a public registration request.
The first one email that landed in Brower’s inbox mentioning “Bill of Rights” came from West Volusia Beacon reporter Al Everson.
On June 23, Everson shared a link to a story in The epoch of time about Collier County considering a similar measure. The Epoch Times is a far-right newspaper affiliated with the religious movement Falun Gong.
“You might want to take a look at this. It might not be ‘politically correct’, especially after what I heard at Tuesday’s meeting when some speakers want Dr Lowry exercised his rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion, “Everson wrote. “Just a thought. Maybe it’s up to local governments to save what’s left of the Republic, and I don’t know how many elected officials have your kind of courage.”
Everson, who did not respond to a message asking for comment on Monday, was referring to June 22 Encounter in which City Councilor Fred Lowry faced protesters calling for his resignation for spreading conspiracy theories during a sermon in his church.
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“I’m already working on it,” Brower replied half an hour later.
The first messages the News-Journal obtained in the request for documents focused on the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
In July, however, a handful of residents wrote to council members about fears of door-to-door vaccinations against COVID-19.
“I agree and will bring a resolution to the county to express our respect for the Bill of Rights,” Brower replied to a woman, suggesting a no trespassing sign for now. “It’s probably not the look you want for your neighborhood, but it will help ward off intrusions.”
Brower, who declined to say if he had been vaccinated, wrote to County Attorney Mike Dyer on July 12 to ask for the resolution to be placed on the agenda as soon as possible.
“There has been a long and continued degradation of our civil liberties. I hope this advice gives the public that assurance that their rights will be protected if necessary,” Brower said.
Brower and Dyer exchanged emails again later in the week, after the Collier County commission rejected an order this would have created local civil and criminal penalties for violating an individual’s constitutional rights.
“It’s nothing and worthless,” Brower said of the Collier County resolution, which simply reaffirms his allegiance to the country and to the Bill of Rights.
Over the weekend, Brower told Dyer he was relying on Dyer’s expertise to turn his ordinance idea into a resolution.
“I’m not ready to negotiate it for an even more meaningless document. You may be ready to stand up for the public when their rights are under attack, but they don’t believe it and I’ve never seen it,” a- he declared.
Assistant County Attorney Heather Wallace told council members about the failure of the Collier County order on July 19 and noted that the Legal Department believes some of its provisions “are inconsistent with the law”.
“The concept of an ordinance is likely unconstitutional under the supremacy clause of the US Constitution,” Dyer continued later in the day. “The method of challenging a federal law or action is to challenge it in court.”
“I thought we were okay with not sending this one? I pulled it out based on your advice,” Brower replied. “What are we doing here? I asked you for advice on the one I shared, not for a debate (sic) of what Collier County is doing.”
The county shared the full text of the resolution before Tuesday’s conversation. This is one of the last items on a busy agenda.
The resolution asserts that Volusia County supports the Bill of Rights, the First 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and “will be vigilant in the proper exercise of the right of judicial review in the face of a suspected unconstitutional act by the federal government or a State “.
He adds that the county attorney will bring to the attention of council any policies or practices of government entities that he believes go against state and federal constitutions, leaving it to the council to decide. if he has to continue.
Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. with comments from the public. The board meets on the second floor of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center in DeLand at 123 W. Indiana Ave.