Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, prior to imposing his penal lockdown upon the people of the state, had many meetings with advisers. Did they discuss the vital enabling law in Tennessee code annotated that authorizes police action in time of medical emergency?
Did they argue back and forth over its requirements to protect the liberty, movement and commerce of the people?
By all appearances, they did not.
Two laws dealing with medical emergency show how the state allowed to use police power to enforce scorched earth. If there is to be scorched earth policy in Tennessee, it is upon the sick — not upon the healthy. It is upon the epidemiologically proven ill, not the sound and fit and asymptomatic.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-201. Power to quarantine, puts the chief end of fighting a cholera, flu or tuberculosis outbreak as maintaining the prosperity of the state.
Whenever yellow fever, cholera, smallpox or other epidemic diseases appear in any locality within the state, and information thereof is brought to the knowledge of the department, the commissioner shall prepare and carry into effect such rules and regulations as, in the commissioner’s judgment, will, with the least inconvenience to commerce and travel, prevent the spread of the disease. [Emphasis added]
The protocol for trying a person who is contagious is in the tuberculosis section of Title 68, with 60 chapters on everything health related, from hemophelia, blood donations to STDs and disabled children.
The TB chapter, No. 9, outlines the legal protocol for seizing and restraining such a person. A person who violates quarantine or is “unruly, boisterous, offensive or recalcitrant” may be sent to a judge to be ordered into a “detention facility.”
Clearly, law requires the governor to maintain the lifeblood of the people — their “economy” and their travel (liberties) — while coralling his powers to restraining the sick.
Scorched earth violates God’s law
The following is from Jason Garwood, a pastor in northern Virginia where he serves Cross and Crown Church in Warrenton. I quote him in full.
The scorched-earth approach to anything is incompatible with Christian doctrine and this is because the grace of God is the only efficacious governor on the sin-sick throttle of human imagination.
No external coercion will ever win the day (salvation by works). Complete and total warfare or destruction (e.g., mass pre-symptomatic quarantine and pre-emptive justice) is not permitted in God’s law.
A classic example are the rules for just war outlined in Deuteronomy 20:1-20. The verses in question state, “When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls” (Deut. 20:19, 20).
No totalist, absolutist action
Why does God care about a particular tree during war? It’s simple, and I outline in it my book, The Politics of Humanism. The default assumption, which precludes scorched-earth advocates with a penchant for war on viruses or other ostensible enemies, is the primacy and centrality of the dominion covenant and our election to it. Total, indiscriminate warfare, and it’s pre-emptive suppositions, are not permitted because God desires to judiciously purge history of wickedness and restore to the earth the shalom of God for covenant man.
He does not obliterate; he redeems.
It is only God’s grace in the judgment that withstands the judgment.
No suspension of lawful dominion activity (i.e. family, Church, economic, etc.) or total warfare principles will ever suffice in God’s history for God’s history moves us from wrath to grace. From injustice to justice, inadequate nutrition (reductionistic medicine) to proper nutrition (naturopathic/redeemed medicine), history is moving forward with God’s law and accompanying sanctions at the forefront. God himself is not a scorched-earth loyalist for his fiery judgment burns against the unbelieving world but purifies his covenant members for servanthood dominion.