Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, we ask that you reopen the business community of Minnesota. We are concerned about the loss of jobs and businesses. We are concerned about the government impinging on the rights of our citizens — rights the veterans of this state fought for and hold dearly.

COVID-19 cases are high across the Midwest, from Utah to Ohio. The disease flourishes regardless of rules in place.

Minnesota is surrounded by states where businesses are allowed to be open, yet Minnesota’s COVID-19 rates per capita are no better than others. (CDC on Dec. 8, cases per 100,000 last seven days: South Dakota, 97.7; Minnesota 95.2; North Dakota, 78.2; Wisconsin, 77.8; Iowa, 71.7.)

This shows that heavy-handed responses do more damage than good. Is the shutdown of bars, restaurants, gyms and other establishments in Minnesota only forcing people to travel, thus causing a greater problem?

Please note the ruling from Federal Judge William S. Stickman in Butler v. Wolf in September. He found the mandates in place by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf only, paradoxically, caused greater spread. He said Pennsylvania’s mandates were forcing shoppers to big-box retailers, resulting in larger crowds and greater risk.

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Stickman expressed concerns over the mandates violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Why can some places where people spend their money be open and not others?

“Indeed, the greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable, and the intent is good — especially in a time of emergency,” Stickman wrote.

We agree.

Many experts say these orders impinge on the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of due process, too, as these shuttered businesses are being punished without fair treatment under the law beforehand. What kind of free country is this where the government can shut down your business operations without evidence of violations? China? Russia? No, Minnesota.

Then there is freedom of assembly. The First Amendment doesn’t say it is OK to gather for a protest but not for, as examples, exercise, holiday meals or to conduct work.

Stickman wrote: “The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms — in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 1934 in Home Bldg. & Loan Assn. v. Blaisdell that even in times of war the strongest government interests cannot remove essential liberties. It was affirmed again in 1967 in United States v. Robel.

Gov. Walz, you would lead best by reminding Minnesotans about health safety — distancing, masking, washing hands, being smart about big crowds — not rules and fines that destroy livelihoods.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Kansan, summed it up best when he said: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it, not because of power can compel him to do it, or your position of authority.”

I limit travel. I wear my mask in stores. I stay six feet apart. I want this pandemic to end like anyone else. But it should be because I am a responsible citizen, not because constitutional rights are abandoned.

The second line of The American Legion preamble says, “To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America ….” The Constitution of the United States is the written bulwark of our free way of life and representative government. It is our guarantee of liberty, freedom, justice, and democracy. Members of The American Legion bore arms and went to wars to defend and uphold this document of freedom.

Let’s do better. You might find greater cooperation among your residents.

Mark Dvorak is the Department of Minnesota commander for The American Legion. He is a member of New Prague Post 45.