It seems that getting control of the coronavirus has brought front and center the question: When should an individual’s right become more important than what is in the best health and welfare of the people, the country?

The Bill of Rights places high priority on individual freedoms – the bedrock of our democracy that we value and guard zealously. Those rights are why we are proud to be Americans.

The Constitution is also clear about the limitations of our individual rights.

No one has autonomous ownership of individual rights. Each of us shares those rights with every fellow American. Therefore, they are not to be exercised in a vacuum. We simply are not free to do what we want with reckless abandon, not caring about how our actions might impact others.

While the Constitution has many safeguards and protection for individual rights, it also has guardrails to secure and protect the public interest. Every level of government is free to enact laws to do so, and those laws govern our behavior in many aspects of our daily lives.

School districts all across America require proof of children being immunized against the most communicable childhood diseases: diphtheria, tetanus pertussis, polio measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. Children whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them, exercising their individual parental rights, are not and should not be allowed to put other children at risk.

Yes, there has been some controversy over vaccines, but the vaccination requirements of children attending public schools prevail.

So, here we are facing the greatest and maybe one of the most costly controversies of our time: When should individual rights be more important than the public interest to get COVID under control?

Why should anyone be allowed to spread a health-threatening, life-altering, and deadly virus simply because it is their right not to take a vaccine or wear a mask? While each of us has the right to make that decision as we function in our own private space, we do not have the right to practice that behavior in a public place, putting others in harm’s way.

You can run the risk of infecting yourself all day long, and deal with any consequences in your home on your property. But the government has the right to restrict your access to public places when you refuse to adhere to rules, regulations or mandates.

This virus is not only making our fellow Americans critically ill and taking many lives unnecessarily, it is hurting our lives and this country in so many other ways. Our health care system is being pushed to the brink. The economy, while rebounding, is still a long way from where it needs to be. Our public schools are in disarray, putting the education of some of the most vulnerable children at risk.

We are all familiar with the freedom of speech analogy. Yes, we all have the right to speak freely. But we do not have the right to speak lies and untruths that cause harm to the public.

False and reckless speech is coming out of the mouths of elected officials and other leaders, downplaying the dangers of the virus and the need to take the vaccine or wear a mask. Many of those same elected officials, leaders and media personalities have quietly taken the vaccines themselves.

As much as we value and want to protect our individual rights, we should be just as concerned about protecting the welfare of the public – doing those things that are, and will be, good for us all.

This commentary is courtesy of the Ohio Capital Journal.

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