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North Idaho state Rep. Heather Scott pushes back against Gov. Little’s stay-at-home order

Heather Scott, Idaho State Representative for District 1, shown in 2016, made public comments on Thursday urging supporters to “push back” against Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A Republican lawmaker in North Idaho ispushing back against the state’s stay-home orders, arguing they are unconstitutional.

Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican from Blanchard representing Bonner County, took to Facebook on Thursday to urge supporters and constituents to “push back” against Republican Gov. Brad Little’s order to help battle the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

Scott called the order an “edict.”

“This path chosen by Idaho’s Executive Branch is unconstitutional, un-American, and not the Idaho way,” she said in the newsletter.

Scott is no stranger to controversial statements or actions.

During a 2015 campaign rally, she posed with a Confederate flag. In 2017, she defended white nationalism on her Facebook page. Later that year, in an open legislative session, she used sexual innuendo to accuse a fellow female state legislator of gaining a committee seat improperly. And she sponsored a bill to remove some requirements to report domestic and child abuse.

In Thursday’s newsletter, Scott asserted the government doesn’t have the right to force businesses to close or stop people from attending church.

“It is not the role of government in a free society to tell us what we can and cannot do,” she said. “This is not going to end until we, as citizens, push back.”

Across the border in Washington, state Rep. Matt Shea has been active on Facebook, sharing conspiracy theories that the coronavirus emerged from a Chinese “biological warfare program.”

The Spokane Valley legislator has pointed to blog posts by John Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent who is now a prominent figure in a cottage industry of anti-Muslim law enforcement trainers.

Shea was ejected from the House Republican caucus in December after an independent investigation into his role in a 2016 armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge. Scott, who has been a proponent of Shea and linked to his Coalition of Western States group, was cited multiple times in the report, which concluded Shea “participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States.”

Scott’s video and text, published Thursday under the State of Idaho Legislative Update banner, was titled: “The Virus that Tried to Kill the Constitution-COVID, The Constitution and Cause for Concern.”

She believes the stay-home order, issued on March 25 by Little, is a direct violation of the first amendment, specifically the right to assemble.

Scott described the order as “tyrannical behavior” and an “unprecedented government power quest.”

In an appearance on a Thursday evening Idaho Public Television show reported by the Idaho Press, Little was asked about objections to the order.

“Today, we have community spread in every corner of the state,” he said. “I am shocked that almost overnight, whether it was the order we did in Blaine County, the order we did statewide, how incredibly accepted it was.

“I did not do this idly.”

Little defended the order.

“The safety of the people of Idaho is paramount,” he said. “I have that constitutional authority. I have it by code, but I am not using it all lightly. It’s a heavy responsibility to me.”

He acknowledged that the order could be extended and said protection and security measures put in place for the pandemic could be similar to those implemented after 9/11, when initial shutdowns were gradually replaced by lesser measures.

“Until we have a vaccine, until we have immunity, until we have good treatment, something is going to have to take place after (April) 15th, but it depends upon the science that is out there,” Little said.

“Life will not go back to normal for a long time.”

As of Thursday morning, Idaho had 669 confirmed cases statewide and nine deaths, according to the Idaho Panhandle Health District.

Public health officials reported a second confirmed COVID-19 case in Bonner County on Friday, bringing the total to 39 cases across North Idaho.

Nationwide, there have been 239,279 cases and 5,443 deaths as of Friday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a video accompanying Scott’s newsletter, she acknowledged “there’s a real sickness out there, and there are certain people at risk,” but said, “it is up to each of us to be responsible for our actions and behavior and take precautions to keep ourselves safe.”

Scott’s letter also insinuated the order was a partisan reaction.

“I am not sure why the Idaho Governor has followed in the footsteps of, at this point, mostly liberal states and issued an order for all Idahoans to stay at home for 21 days and for all non-essential businesses to close.”

A “reminder” in bold and larger font than the rest of the text read: “Unconstitutional edicts do not take precedence over our inalienable rights! Our rights, and the Constitution protecting those rights, do not go away in times of emergency.”

Scott isn’t the only North Idaho leader questioning the stay-at-home order.

Bonner County Sheriff Darryl Wheeler published an open letter to Little on the department’s letterhead and Facebook page on Thursday echoing many of Scott’s concerns.

He urged Little to convene the Legislature for an emergency meeting to discuss lifting the stay-home order.

Wheeler referenced a letter from Florida business owner Alfie Oakes, posted on his farm’s Facebook page, which calls into question the reliability of data and information from the World Health Organization regarding the pandemic.

“I do not believe that suspending the Constitution was wise, because COVID-19 is nothing like the plague,” Wheeler’s letter stated. “We were misled by some Public Health Officials, and now it is time to reinstate the Constitution.”

Pastor and state Rep. Tim Remington called the coronavirus a “gimmick” and “a test” in a sermon, and held open service last weekend at The Altar church in Coeur d’Alene.

During his sermon, Remington told congregants that two church members tested positive for coronavirus after a mission trip in the Dominican Republic. Remington was in contact with the pair.

Roughly 45 people attended the service on Sunday, Remington told KREM earlier this week.

Remington, who was appointed to the Legislature by Little earlier this year, was explicit in his opinion during his sermons.

“Many of our rights were just taken out from underneath of us,” Remington said of the response to coronavirus. “They have just showed everybody in this nation how because of a flu, OK, they can completely take away all your First Amendment rights.”

In reaction to negative feedback, The Altar’s board on Thursday decided it will comply with the state’s order and that services will be conducted solely online this weekend.