By HOLLY RAMER Associated Press

HOPKINTON, N.H. (AP) — Three people who planned to attend political and religious events in the next few weeks are challenging New Hampshire’s statewide emergency ban on gatherings of 50 people or more to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

David Binford, Eric Couture and Holly Rae Beene filed a lawsuit Tuesday, the day after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu issued the order prohibiting large scheduled gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. They argue there is no emergency, and that the governor is violating their constitutional rights.

“We can choose to assemble if that is our desire. What cannot occur is one man in a position of power deciding to strip us of our rights in the name of safety and without due process,” Couture said in press release.

A judge on Wednesday denied the group’s request for an immediate order halting enforcement of the ban and scheduled a hearing for Friday in Merrimack County Superior Court. A spokesman for Sununu said Thursday that the emergency order is consistent with actions taken across the country and is clearly within the governor’s authority.

“We are confident the court will agree,” said Ben Vihdstadt.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs describe a variety of events they planned to attend, including meetings of the Grafton County Republican committee, services and Sunday school at a Baptist church and a Meetup group to discuss “petitioning the government for redress of grievances.” The complaint also mentions buying food at a supermarket, though the order does not apply to shopping for food. It does, however, prohibit on-site dining at restaurants.

“We ask others to let the governor’s office know that they are opposed to living under a government that controls the people, instead of the other way around,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Daniel Hynes.

Nearly 40 people have tested positive in New Hampshire for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough, and the vast majority recover. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

In Ohio, where Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has taken one of the more aggressive anti-virus approaches, businesses and civic groups have largely supported the closure of restaurants and bars, part of one of the most aggressive anti-virus approaches nationally. Those include the state Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers’ Association and an alliance of mayors.
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Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report. The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (6)
  1. Butch Goodwin says:

    I am a card carrying member of the ACLU. I firmly believe in the rights of the individual. I also believe in Free speech. However I would not support anyone going into a crowded theater and yelling “FIRE”. That said, these are extraordinary situations. Which call for extraordinary remedies. In this case the rights of the many dwarf the rights of the individual. Governor Sununu, acting on the best advice of experts.Trying to keep the population of New Hampshire safe has taken the extraordinary measure of limiting the size of gatherings for the well being of the many.In short the Plaintiffs are selfish,irresponsible and reckless.Will they take moral and financial responsibility if anyone in their groups comes down with the virus? Would they pre screen everyone? They talk of a Baptist gathering in their suit. Where are their Christian values!

  2. Chris M says:

    It is understood that these “leaders” trying to save lives, but they are bunglers. They have shown nothing in the way of mathematical proof what they are doing is, in the long run, effective. They have said nothing of the herd immunity, which would help build immunity with those that survive the virus.
    When has suicide saved a lie. Shutting down a capitalistic country in this haphazard manner is commiting economic suicide. The only relevant number to them is people having the virus, not the amount who died very, very small in percentage, and those that survive very high in percentage. This is an over reaction and they are power mad and blind and do not seem to have any reason. Only a fanatical belief they know best to send every behind doors uti they decide they can come out.
    The constant fear mongering has people believing what is being done the right thing and they is no one opposed to to this heavy handed response. The common flu kills more people and never gets this kind of response. The insanity in California where a governor tells everyone stay in the house, whether they have the virus or not, is completely ridiculous.
    This case must be won, this response though well meaning in an incorrect response in its application. No society should be executed to save it, it makes no sense. NO previous experience in the matter and escalating a devastating action without thinking of the down line consequences. Open the doors and let the sunshine in. Time for America to fight thee virus and not hide behind doors, it is only kicking the can down the road it is not solving a thing. People will die and dying is a natural human behavior it in part of nature. It appears Japan has a cure, perhaps we should reach out and see if we can duplicate the formula here.

    1. Kurt says:

      Chris,
      You must obviously have very few if any people in your life who are risk of this. I do. My parents both have pre-existing conditions. Many of my friends have auto-immune disease, and would stand little hope of fighting this off. The quarantines and shutdowns of schools are necessary to flatten the curve and slow the spread. Herd immunity needs about 80% of the population to be vaccinated. We don’t even have a vaccine.

      The flu kills 0.1% of those it infects just in the U.S. The death rate of those infected with coronavirus is much higher, around 4%, and is increased by age. There is no signs that this will meager down over the summer months. No one has immunity to this.

      When you say people will die, that is true. However we can flatten the curve and save lives until an effective and proven vaccine is developed. That is going to take time. This virus has never been seen before.

      When you say “it’s time for America to fight the virus” you are essentially sentencing thousands upon thousands to death who otherwise might survive due to the measures being taken. Flattening the curve is far more important to saving lives and it outweighs our desires to have a normal life right now. We are slowing the spread and this has to be done.

      4.1% of all people who have had this virus die. That’s a lot. Not that you care, obviously.

  3. Butch Goodwin says:

    Chris I have 1 question. What would you do?

    I ask that because I do not think you understand the problem. This is not just a Massachusetts
    thing. This is Global. The Governor is using best information available from WHO,CDC and Pasteur Institute. We have learned From Italy,Iran and China. That doing nothing is not the way to save lives. If you look at history. The 1918 Pandemic is the example of how a flu can migrate and evolve. That pandemic moved across the world with soldiers returning from WWI. It moved slower though ,there were no jets. Officials then had no idea what they were dealing with till after it was out of control.The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people., 1/5 of the population was infected. Chris I think to you fail to see how this effects others. The mortality rate in Italy is over 7%. Iran is approaching over 10%.

    So what would you do Chris?

  4. Alexander Ravenswey says:

    So many of you are missing the point. It’s not about whether or not social distancing is the responsible thing to do. It’s about “ordering” it rather than “requesting” or “strongly urging” it. If a business were to remain open and employees were more or less compelled to be there against their will (or fail to show up at risk of being fired), that’s one thing. If that business had a sole proprietor who, knowing the risks of allowing the public to enter, willingly takes that risk, then who the f*ck is any politician to “order” them to close? Not the president nor any state governor and certainly no podunk county official has the right to violate the U.S. consitution like that. And if a gathering is completely voluntary and anyone attending chooses to do so freely, then, again, who the f*ck do these officials think they are? This was a free country a month ago. Now, I might have to show my papers if the police stop me to prove that I’m engaged in “necessary” travel? I’m supposed to report my neighbors or friends if they’re violating these rules? No, no, and more no.

    1. Butch Goodwin says:

      And you Sir do not see the bigger picture. In italy the government didn’t do anything for the first 3 weeks that it was identified there as a major out break. There they “suggested”people stay home too! Very few did..

      Mr Ravens way the COVID!( virus has started in the Capetown South Africa Township. I suggest you go there walk around for a few days. The residents of the Township are not doing as the government has ordered . They are out walking around hanging out on the streets. Watch the news for stories about that. Watch how fast the virus spreads and kills. Then you come back here and post whether this is a violation of rights.

      The Rights of the many out weigh the Rights of the few. I believe that was the judges ruling too.

      The Bill of rights guarantees free speech. Does that mean you go into a theater and yell fire?

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