A conservative nonprofit group is trying to get an Oregon court to throw out Gov. Kate Brown’s order requiring people in the state to wear face masks in indoor public places and outside when social distancing isn’t possible.
The Freedom Foundation said the governor and the Oregon Health Authority acted too hastily in issuing the mask order to combat the spread of COVID-19, and it also questioned whether the mandate infringed on constitutional rights.
“It seems like the governor and her different agency heads think they get a magic wand they can wave around and do whatever they think is necessary,” said Jason Dudash, the group’s Oregon director. The Freedom Foundation, which is seeking an emergency stay of the order in the Oregon Court of Appeals, filed a similar lawsuit in Washington state on July 1. There has been no decision yet on the Washington case.
Thomas Wheatley, a spokesman for Brown, said he could not comment on pending litigation. But, he added, “I can say that face coverings save lives. The virus is transmitted in droplets from your nose and mouth. ... The more that people wear face coverings in public, the more likely we will be able to keep businesses open. The two are connected.”
Kristina Edmunson, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said this is the first lawsuit against the mask order that her agency is aware of.
The use of face masks has been a heated political issue for months, with many Republican governors saying they oppose mandates. As caseloads have spiked, however, some of those governors have reversed themselves. President Donald Trump resisted wearing a mask in public for months but said this week that it was patriotic to wear a mask.
Dudash, the Freedom Foundation official, said he was not arguing against the use of face masks. But he said the governor should take the time to give public comment on proposed mask rules and should take into account the legitimate concerns some people have to wearing masks.
The group filed its lawsuit on behalf of three Oregonians who say their rights are infringed by the mask order.
Chester Mooney, a Yamhill County retiree, said in the legal filing that he has had heart bypass surgery and has been told that it wouldn't be safe for him to wear a face mask. He said he doesn't want to be forced to discuss his health in order to shop in a store.
Kevin Rubio of Lane County said he thinks wearing a mask in effect forces him to show political support for several restrictions the governor has ordered to combat the pandemic.
Shannan Pozzi of Lane County said being forced to wear a mask worsens the trauma she has as a victim of domestic abuse and attempted murder. She said she has been “literally kicked out of” one supermarket and “verbally assaulted” at another store for not wearing a mask, forcing her to relive past violence.