LIHU‘E — A local group has filed a complaint in federal district court against the County of Kaua‘i, Mayor Derek Kawakami and Gov. David Ige, claiming the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 800,000 Americans to date “is a manufactured public-health event.”
For Our Rights, a Kaua‘i-based nonprofit opposed to vaccines that alleges the pandemic is the result of a conspiracy, accuses the defendants of violating plaintiffs’ civil rights through emergency proclamations mandating public mask use, travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
The 91-page civil complaint asks the court to grant money damages, injunctive and declaratory relief against Ige’s emergency proclamations, and end statewide COVID-19 protocols For Our Rights alleges are unconstitutional.
“COVID-19 is but a pretext by defendants to establish despotic totalitarian state control through the sacrifice of fundamental constitutional rights under the guise of ‘health, safety and welfare,’” the For Our Rights complaint contends.
The filing, made Dec. 12, came two days after the state Department of Health issued its latest announcement on the spread of the coronavirus variant omicron on O‘ahu, where 12 cases have been detected.
State health officials report omicron exhibits traits indicating it is even more transmissible than the delta variant that surged throughout Hawai‘i this past summer.
DOH advises residents to wear face masks and avoid large crowds, noting vaccines and boosters appear to slow the spread of the omicron variant and are effective in preventing severe illness.
Nine named individuals, in addition to 100 others “who may be joined to (the) lawsuit at a later date,” join the group as plaintiffs.
Four of the named plaintiffs, which include For Our Rights CEO Levana Lomma, are residents of Kaua‘i. The remainder hail from O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island, Maui, Missouri and California.
A spokesperson said the county had not yet received the complaint when approached by The Garden Island for comment Wednesday.
Lomma addressed For Our Rights’ religious exemption cards in an October conversation with The Garden Island.
The cards, which sell for $12 on the For Our Rights website, claim wearers are legally exempt from wearing face coverings, temperature-taking, viral testing and vaccination under protections from discrimination in the federal Civil Rights Act. The cards also claim businesses that refuse to provide service may place themselves at risk of being prosecuted.
For Our Rights has sold “probably hundreds” of the cards across Hawai‘i, according to Lomma, who said demand for the cards is high.
But users don’t always meet with success when displaying the cards at businesses that limit access to customers following COVID-19 protocols.
“We don’t make any kind of guarantees that it will work for them in all situations … there’s a lot of establishments that have just set their stance that they’re going to follow the governor’s mandates and rules and orders above other federal laws which, ultimately, I have to say, can and probably will lead to legal action against them, if people feel so inclined to do so,” Lomma said at the time, in an apparent reference to the Dec. 12 complaint.
Lomma herself often does not use her religious-exemption card in public. She disclosed she has a medical exemption from a doctor that prohibits mask use.
Attorney Jeffrey Harris, a business-law specialist who argued employers should enact vaccine mandates when addressing the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce this summer, said For Our Rights’ religious-exemption cards “are a fraudulent attempt to sabotage public safety.”
“Retail businesses are entitled to deny service to unvaccinated individuals unless accommodating disability causes less-than-substantial burden or expense, or accommodating religion causes less-than-minimal burden or expense,” he said in an email.
“Even if an accommodation may meet one of those tests, allowing unvaccinated persons to have contact with other individuals will likely directly threaten the others. Any mode of operation a retail store follows which allows that to happen on their premises risks workers-compensation claims by its employees and tort claims by its employees and customers who are allegedly infected as a result.”
Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.
Source: The Garden Island