A county in southern Virginia has voted to declare itself a “First Amendment sanctuary” and ignore Gov. Ralph Northam’s coronavirus-related restrictions.
Campbell County’s Board of Supervisors endorsed a resolution that declares Mr. Northam’s crowd-size limits and other orders as violations of the Virginia Constitution and urges county agencies not to enforce them.
On Nov. 15, Mr. Northam capped public gatherings at 25 people, ordered everyone older than 5 to wear masks in indoor public spaces, and forced restaurants and bars not to sell alcohol after 10 p.m. and close altogether by midnight.
But the elected officials in Campbell County, a county of 55,000 people that lies southeast of Lynchburg, see things differently.
The resolution, which was passed unanimously Tuesday night, says the sheriff’s office should not “assist any state law enforcement officer, state health agent or federal agent” enforce the governor’s restrictions. It also bars county funds should not enforce or promote the orders.
Sunburst District Supervisor Steve Shockley told the Lynchburg News and Advance that the measure is largely symbolic.
Concord District Supervisor Matt Cline had said county supervisors do not have the power to direct constitutional officers, like those in the sheriff’s or commonwealth’s attorney’s offices, and that the resolution will not threaten the funding of its county departments.
But when Mr. Cline “began to read the resolution, there was a flurry of movement as [spectators] took off their face masks in a show of support,” the Lynchburg paper reported.
Mr. Shockley still called Mr. Northam’s executive orders a “slippery slope” that will escalate into greater violations of county residents’ rights.
Campbell County Attorney Tripp Isenhour said that while he is still determining the resolution’s precise impact, the governor has “broad powers” on public health, and Virginia localities have “very little role” in enforcing executive mandates.
Enforcement is in the hands of the state health department, he said.
Campbell County Sheriff Whit Clark said he supports the resolution but the sheriff’s office already was “not enforcing any of that.”
“We haven’t been and we’re not going to,” he said.
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