Open letter to Mr. Wheeler and Sheriff Wheeler

By Pierre Bordenave
Reader Contributor

To Mr. Wheeler:  

As an individual citizen, I support and vigorously defend your right of free speech and to believe whatever you wish to believe, or choose to not believe in data and reports from our international, national, and state scientists, health agencies, or even local health professionals. And no one can, or should, prevent your writing a personal letter to our governor espousing your personal beliefs and disbeliefs. 

To Sheriff Wheeler:  

What I cannot support is the public spectacle of your letter being front paged to request an end to the Governor Little’s Emergency Declaration and Order, which was issued after long deliberation and caution, but correctly in recognition of his duty to protect the citizens of Idaho from contracting and transmitting COVID-19. I cannot support using your status as our sheriff to present your personal opinions, while appearing to imply that is what all, or even most of the citizens of Bonner County want. And I cannot support using an official position of authority and respect in our community to impart legitimacy to a personal opinion that COVID-19 is being foisted on us by “globalists” controlling the governments and health organizations of the world to reach some mysterious and undefined end… and keep us from going to church?   

It was interestingly ironic you chose the very day we passed one million people confirmed infected worldwide, hit the over 5,000 Americans dead milestone, and over 1,000 people in Idaho testing positive, to imply this highly contagious virus was perhaps still a hoax, and by extension encouraged people who respect and listen to you, to expose themselves, their loved ones, and our entire community to this plague.  

Regarding your dismissive statement that “it’s not like this is the plague.” I assume you are referring to Bubonic Plague, which kills less than 20 thousand people a year. Worldwide we will be far past that mark in a few months, and for information, “Plague” is defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as follows: 

1. a disastrous evil or affliction; 2. an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality; 3. a sudden unwelcome outbreak. 

You seemed to define your interpretation of our Constitution being the government has no emergency authority to issue a protection order keeping us from congregating, regardless of the emergency. You have ready access to lawyers employed by, or on retainer to, the county; as well as judges at the county, district, state and federal level, whose job and duties are to interpret laws and our constitutions. I believe the duties of our law enforcement / peace officers are exactly that: enforcing state and federal laws, keeping the peace, serving and protecting the citizenry. I don’t remember reading in any civics lessons or legal documents where the duties of sheriff included the interpretation of the Constitution and enforcing only the laws that he personally believes in. 

I remember back when you first ran for sheriff many years ago; coming to our businesses, public meetings, forums, and to many of us individually to tell us how you intend to be a sheriff for all the people of Bonner County – those of us who voted for you as well as those that did not. I am curious under what role of serving and protecting, keeping the peace, and enforcing legally enacted laws and executive orders would you place personal interpretation of the Constitution? You are up for reelection. You will be judged worthy of our vote based on your doing the job for which you are elected, not for personal or political beliefs.    

Regarding our right to worship freely: God can hear any of us, any time, and anywhere we wish to connect. I doubt God is impressed by, or needs, public appearances in a crowded congregation. And I cannot imagine anyone’s belief includes a God who wants any of us to cause the death of fellow worshippers for such a foolish thing as touching or breathing the virus from the forced close proximity of a congregation.   

When one chooses to go to a crowded church and expose themselves, they choose to expose their family, their friends, our schoolchildren, teachers, store checkers, pharmacists, hardware store clerks, mechanics, deputies, first responders, the entire health care community – and then they expose everyone they contact. I live with one of those people whose immune system is such that if they get this, they will die. There are thousands of people in North Idaho; tens of thousands in Idaho; hundreds of thousands regionally; millions in our country; and tens of millions in the world with similar conditions.  

A narrow interpretation that the right of a fraction of the population to endanger themselves by gathering for group worship, is not more important than – nor should override – the right of the vast majority of the population who choose not to be exposed to this deadly plague. As you say, let us choose for ourselves. Your request to the governor chooses for us.

While we have you ...

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