Travis Oler

Travis Oler

On their websites and published opinions, the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation and other extreme right groups have encouraged Idahoans to resist Governor Little’s stay-at-home order because they claim it is unconstitutional. This is hogwash.

Our pioneer ancestors instituted mandatory quarantine and social distancing laws well over a century ago. This is part of our history and our heritage as Idahoans. The pioneers dealt with many more pandemics than we ever will, and the pioneers realized that mandatory quarantine laws and social distancing were sometimes necessary. Whenever we forget the wisdom of the pioneers who settled Idaho, then we will suffer negative consequences.

I served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 2004, and for years I have been a volunteer adult leader and merit badge counselor for local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America. My experiences with the U.S. Army and the Boy Scouts of America inform the opinions I hold today regarding our constitutional obligations to follow Governor Little’s stay-at-home orders.

My favorite 1st Class requirement of the BSA instructs the scouts to “discuss ... the constitutional rights and obligations of a U.S. citizen.” It was always a highlight of my year to meet with 11-year-old scouts and talk to them about their rights to peaceable enjoyment of their lives, free speech, a jury trial, etc. While many scouts could name numerous constitutional rights, the large majority of the scouts did not know that they could be required — under pain of imprisonment — to fulfill their constitutional obligations to serve on a jury or to register for the draft.

Over and over again, I would emphasize to the scouts in my care that freedom is not free, that if they enjoyed a right it was because someone else had sacrificed for that right or someone else had fulfilled their constitutional obligations to provide that right. For example, we cannot obtain our right to a jury trial if no one is required to serve on the jury.

In declaring Governor Little’s stay-at-home order unconstitutional, the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation shows that the kind of freedom they desire is freedom from their constitutional obligations to follow centuries old laws mandating quarantine and social distancing. The so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation mistakenly believes that the completely unfettered freedom of travel is more important than other Idahoans’ right to life itself.

The Soldier’s Creed of the US Army states, “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Right now many Idahoans are actively risking their lives in the fight against COVID-19, including police, firefighters, EMTs, grocery clerks, and healthcare workers. They are risking their lives while laboring under a tremendous shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns.

When others are risking their lives to protect our lives, whether they are military members, police, or healthcare workers, we owe them our respect, gratitude, and support. If we Idahoans are not willing to make good-faith efforts to social distance and stay at home in accordance with Governor Little’s orders, then we are effectively abandoning thousands of Idahoans who are risking their lives for us.

Only a coward would leave behind a fellow injured soldier, and only cowards such as the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation would advocate resisting Governor Little’s stay-at-home order and abandoning our first responders, healthcare workers, and others when there is limited PPE available and when they are risking their lives for ours.

Travis Oler is a candidate for the Idaho House of Representatives, Seat 31B in Bingham County.