Starting Points: A Primer on Constitutional Rights During Crises

Washington Resigning His Commission, Founders, 1859, Edwin White

Starting Points: “From the Editor: A Primer on Constitutional Rights During Crises”

By Justin Dyer


If the state may conscript its citizens into military service and send them to war, may it do anything short of that? This question has taken on a new relevance in the age of COVID-19. State and local shelter-in-place orders have told residents, under penalty of law, that they cannot travel, cannot assemble peacefully in private or public places, cannot protest on government property, cannot worship in a building together or even in the parking lot in their cars, and cannot have a proper memorial service for the departed. State authorities claim they are justified in restricting basic rights, at least temporarily, but that authority comes with danger. We are left to reflect on their prudential calculation and consider how that power will be used by those who wield it – not just now but also in the future…. 

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Justin DyerJustin Dyer is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri. His research spans the fields of American political development, political philosophy, and constitutional law. He is particularly interested in the interaction between the American political tradition and the perennial philosophy of natural law. Ongoing research projects examine the role of classical and modern natural-law philosophy in early American political thought and constitutional theory.  He is the author or co-author of several books, including C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law (Cambridge University Press, 2016), Slavery, Abortion, and the Politics of Constitutional Meaning (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Professor Dyer is a JMC faculty partner.

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