Mask Constitutionality: To Wear or Not to Wear a Mask?

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV)- There has been a lot of debate whether or not businesses are allowed to require people to wear masks. According to attorney and Mississippi College Law professor Matt Steffey, business owners can do so.

“The government has power to deal with emergencies and the power is always balanced against the need for the measure versus the intrusion or burden to the individual and masks are a minimal burden or intrusion on individual liberty in a time of overwhelming and pressing public emergency,” explained Steffey.

Professor Steffey said a mask is less of an intrusion on individual liberty than a quarantine or a shelter in place order, and when dealing with an emergency, the government holds the power to make that decision.

“It wouldn’t be much of a functioning government if it can’t do a couple of things protect people from outside threats like terrorism, and protect and serve people in times of natural disaster like a hurricane or a public health emergency like a pandemic,” said Steffey.

With many large retailers requiring masks in their stores, Professor Steffey said it is just as acceptable for businesses to post masks required for entry signs as it is for “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service.”

“No doubt about it, the constitutional limitations that apply to government do not apply at all to private businesses, so there’s no constitutional restrictions on businesses. What there are, are some federal laws that forbid race and sex discrimination that we’re familiar with, but other than that a business can decide not to do business with you for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.”

For those who have heard that wearing masks affects your concealead carry permit, Professor Steffey said that is false.

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