Parents seek nullification of Utah governor’s executive orders related to COVID-19

A group of eight Utah parents is urging the court to throw out Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The parents say that due to Herbert’s executive orders, “Utah has experienced an unprecedented and unlawful suspension of their most sacred and fundamental rights.”

They argue that the series of executive orders from the governor have created nearly 30 unlawful limitations on their lives. That includes:

  • Closing churches, denying Utahns the right to worship freely.

  • Imprisoning people against their will through unlawful quarantine.

  • Denying family gatherings, reunions and attendance at funerals.

  • Closing schools and business.

  • Targeting and tracking people without their consent.

  • Depriving Utahns their most fundamental rights of human contact and touch.

  • And effectively imprisoning the elderly and/or consigning them to loneliness.

“These ongoing irreparable harms demand immediate action,” states the lawsuit, filed in 4th District Court.

The lawsuit also states that the parents’ children are being “deprived of their constitutional right to free and open schools.” Herbert has mandated that masks be worn at every K-12 school in the state, though he has given districts the autonomy to decide whether schools will give classes virtually, in person or use a hybrid model.

The lawsuit alleges that Herbert, the state and the Utah Department of Health have “perpetrated a campaign of false information related to school age children and the respective risks that the [parents], their children, and the public system of education face” when it comes to the coronavirus.

The documents also allege that children are at risk of mental and emotional abuse at their schools “for secretive and undisclosed purposes,” and those effects are perpetuated by a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating the relatively less severe affect of COVID-19 on children.

While the CDC report says hospitalization rates in children are significantly lower compared to adults, it mentions that recent evidence shows children “likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults” and “children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings.”

The lawsuit cites the Book of Mormon, the Utah Constitution and the U.S. Constitution to buttress the parents’ argument that they hold the freedom to care for, have custody of and manage their children, and that “government must not support any action in opposition to the desires of a parent.”

The lawsuit states Herbert has issued around 63 executive orders since March 6, the same day he declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. Five days later, the World Health Organization characterized the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.