By Jacob Nakamura
As tensions rise between the Catholic faithful and the Leon Guerrero regime, notably absent from the dialogue has been Attorney General Leevin Camacho. Until today.
Mr. Camacho, who was a vocal political rights activist prior to becoming the AG, has not spoken up about Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and public health director Linda DeNorcey's restriction of Guamanians's right to worship freely. This constitutional right is guaranteed in the first 16 words of the Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1791.
Ironically, it has been the federal government (against whom Mr. Camacho has been vocal for years for violating the rights of the people of Guam) that has been most vocal about protecting the constitutional rights and civil liberties of Guam's citizens during the current public health emergency.
Monday in Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney General William Barr instructed his deputy for civil rights and the several United States Attorneys throughout the country to shift focus to protecting Americans against the overreaching arm of government officials violating citizens's rights.
Late Wednesday, U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands Shawn Anderson forwarded two letters to the Justice Department that depict such an overreach and violation of the rights of Catholics on Guam. The first letter, penned by Fr. Paul Gofigan and sent to Ms. Leon Guerrero and Ms. DeNorcey, proposes a responsible way for churches to open for patrons to worship.
The response from Ms. DeNorcey, which also was forwarded to the Justice Department, was (in part), "DPHSS neither supports, nor approves any sacramental services even though safety precautionary measures are in place as delineated in your letter."
Kandit has confirmed with a high-placed source in Washington, D.C. that Ms. DeNorcey and her decision are under federal investigation.
Kandit is calling on Catholics to park at the Agana Cathedral Basilica Sunday starting at 9;30 a.m. in a display of civil disobedience and an exercise in religious freedom. That is when Archbishop Michael Byrnes is scheduled to start the Sunday Mass, which is live cast on the Archdiocese's webpage and other social media platform, including KUAM's Facebook page.
People are asked to park and not get out of their vehicles as they listen to the Mass from their phones. The hope is that Archbishop Byrnes will come out of the Cathedral at the summit of the Mass and perform the Sacrament of the Eucharist with the faithful (by going up to each vehicle) for the first time since March 16.
As for the edict by the Leon Guerrero regime, Attorney General Leevin Camacho has finally chimed in to the discussion. According to his spokeswoman, Carlina Charfauros:
"The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has argued that Governor Leon Guerrero has authority to implement reasonable measures to protect the community during a public health crisis.This includes social distancing measures that apply to all gatherings. Several courts around the country have upheld similar measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, finding that restrictions which are facially neutral and generally applicable-similar to the ones in Guam- do not violate religious freedom." - Carlina Charfauros, OAG
Contrary to Mr. Camacho's assertion, Federal Judge John Broomes of the U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kansas, on April 19 ruled that an order by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (similar to Ms. Leon Guerrero's order shutting down churches) wreaks of a violation of the religious freedoms. The order resulted from complaints by two Baptist churches that sued Ms. Kelly. Mr. Broomes's ruling prevents the enforcement of Ms. Kelly's orders.
Mr. Camacho is relying, in part, on a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to justify the curtailing of constitutional rights during this emergency:
"The bottom line is this: when faced with a society-threatening epidemic, a state may implement emergency measures that curtail constitutional rights so long as the measures have some real or substantial relation to the public health crisis and are not beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law. This was the holding of the United States Supreme Court in the 1905 case addressing Massachusetts executive powers to mandate vaccines during the smallpox epidemic." - Attorney General Leevin Camacho