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Ignorance is Not Bliss

Ignorance is Not Bliss

by Paul Engel



  • Defiance of mask mandate ends poorly for a woman in Galveston, TX.
  • The difference between private and public property a deciding factor for a woman’s arrest.
  • Everyone needs to understand not only how to assert their rights, but how to do it properly.


I recently saw the body cam video of a Galveston, TX police officer arresting a woman for not wearing a mask in a local bank. While many seem appalled by the actions of the officer, I see this as an excellent example of how ignorance of our rights has led to the situation this woman was in.

Founding Father John Jay once said:

Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country, and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.

John Jay, First Chief Justice of the United States

Barely a week after Governor Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate, we see an example where someone was not prepared to assert their rights correctly, leading to a rather unpleasant incident. Terry Wright, of Oregon, walked into a bank in Galveston, TX without a mask. Although I did not see them, apparently there were signs requiring those in the bank to wear masks. When this woman was asked to leave, she refused, which led to a bank employee calling the police. Ms. Wright refused to leave when asked by the officer, stating, “The law says that I do not have to wear a mask”. This is where general ignorance about rights can lead people into real trouble. So that’s where I want to start.

Legitimate Use of Rights

I’ve written before about the illegality of government mask mandates. Gov. Abbott’s mandate not only violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, but probably the Constitution of the State of Texas as well. And if the depravation of liberty inherent in government officials forcing you to wear a mask in public isn’t bad enough, forcing private businesses to require them is a depravation of property also prohibited by the Fifth Amendment and probably the Constitution of Texas.

What was wrong with Ms. Wright’s attempt to do business in the bank without a mask is a basic misunderstanding of how to legitimately exercise her rights. I’ve written and spoken extensively about rights, but I can sum them up in two simple sentences:

  • You cannot legitimately exercise a right by infringing on the legitimate rights of another.
  • Therefore, for a right to be legitimate, you must be able to exercise it without infringing on the rights of others.

Ms. Wright has a right to be at liberty, including going around without wearing a mask. Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order to the contrary was a violation of the Constitutions of both Texas and the United States, and according to both Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #78, and Chief Justice Marshall in the Marbury v. Madison case, that order was void. The fact that Gov. Abbott repealed his illegal mask mandate does not impact the legitimate use of someone’s rights.

The bank, however, is private property. It is owned by a private company and paid for with private funds. The fact that the bank is open to the public does not make the building public property. As the owners of that property, the bank has the right to do with it what they want. Just as the bank had the legal right to tell Gov. Abbott to “pound sand” when he ordered them to require masks, they have the right to refuse service to anyone who does not wear one.

Some of you may be asking, what about Ms. Wright’s right to not where a mask? She is free to exercise that right, up to the point that she infringes on the rights of another. In this case, she was free to go around in pubic without a mask, but she did not have the right to violate the bank’s mask policy. So when Ms. Wright claimed, “The law says that I do not have to wear a mask,” the officer was correct in responding, “You do not in public, but you’re not in public. … This is not a public place, this is a private business.” Ms. Wright had to decide if doing business in the bank was worth more to her than not wearing a mask. Instead, she attempted to force her opinion on the owners of the bank by entering in violation of their policy and then refusing to leave. She was trespassing. She intruded onto private property without permission, then resisted the law enforcement officer who arrested her. The injury she apparently sustained while resisting arrest is not the officer’s fault, but that of Ms. Wright when she fought against a lawful demand by the officer to leave the premises. And sadly, by assuming she could violate the wishes of the property owner because she was doing business with them, she has furthered the wrong idea that we have a right to do what we want on other people’s property as long as it is open to the public or the government says so.


This question of private property has come up repeatedly, not only regarding the wearing of masks, but the carrying of arms. Ms. Wright’s apparent ignorance of that fact that she has no right to go onto private property however she sees fit, has led to her arrest. This general ignorance of many Americans has probably led others into similar situations. Which means John Jay’s quote bears repeating:

Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country, and teach the rising generation to be free. By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated, and be the better prepared to defend and assert them.

John Jay, First Chief Justice of the United States

We should all know our rights, and be prepared to defend and assert them, but we need to do so properly. That means not only recognizing our rights, but the rights of everyone. That also means not asserting our rights if they infringe on the rights of another. If a private business requires that you wear a mask, or a shirt, or shoes, or enter without any arms, that is their right. It is also your right to determine if you wish to do business with them.

Perhaps more people should listen to Mr. Jay. If they read and studied the Constitution of their country and, by the way, their state as well, and if we taught the rising generation to be free, maybe then fewer people would be arrested for exercising their rights by violating the rights of others

Statement by Michael Anthony Peroutka

Dear Friends  of the Constitutional Republic:

Our friend, Paul Engel, has recently posted an article on the American View website entitled “Ignorance is not Bliss”. 

In that article Mr. Engel argues that even though face mask orders by governors or other government officials are unlawful, private business owners are nonetheless acting within their rights to require their business invitees to comply with their policies.  

Although I am in general agreement with Mr. Engel and believe his argument to be sound as far as it goes, I would like to add some additional thoughts and suggestions.  

By way of background, I believe that the Federal Civil Rights Act contains many provisions that are beyond the authority provided to Congress under Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution. Notwithstanding this fact, its provisions regarding “public accommodations” present an argument that business owners are prohibited from requiring the wearing of masks as a matter of public policy.

As an example, there is a growing movement in Ohio and elsewhere as a part of which many patriotic citizens are publishing and distributing pamphlets claiming that 

Federal Civil Rights Law, Title II, requires that as a place of public accommodation, a business is required to provide free and equal access to all services and facilities WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION. And that State and Federal law prohibits business owners and employees from preventing entry or even the full enjoyment of the business establishment. 

In addition, it is argued that a face mask is legally designated as a “medical device” by FDA Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, Section 201(h) (Definition #2). Therefore, in every State, including Ohio, face masks are regulated as a medical device. Even just recommending that someone wear a regulated medical device (mask) is the unlicensed practice of medicine. According to ORC 4731.41 and 4731.34, this violation is a 5th degree felony.

Therefore, forcing a customer to wear a mask to enter a business constitutes a violation of Title II and the ORC. 

Again, while I am not prepared to pass on the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, it would seem that these arguments may indeed have merit and ought to be fully explored and pursued. 

For the Republic,

Michael Peroutka