Minnesota Anti-Mask Law Doesn’t Ban the Wearing of Masks for Public Health Reasons
The Governor’s Executive Order 20-81 mandates wearing masks indoors, but Minnesota Statutes § 609.735 provides,
A person whose identity is concealed by the person in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise, unless based on religious beliefs, or incidental to amusement, entertainment, protection from weather, or medical treatment, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
In yesterday’s Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Walz, decided by Judge Patrick J. Schiltz (D. Minn.), “plaintiffs argue[d] that Executive Order 20-81 is invalid,” and indeed “that it is illegal for any person to choose to wear a face covering in a public place for the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19.” No, said Judge Schiltz:
[T]his Court believes that the Minnesota Supreme Court would hold that § 609.735 is violated only when someone wears a face covering for the purpose of concealing his or her identity.
The original version of the statute was enacted in 1923. Like similar laws enacted during the same era, the law grew out of concerns over the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
The original version of the statute clearly required that the perpetrator act with the intent to conceal his or her identity: “It shall be unlawful for any person … to appear on any street or highway, or in other public places or any place open to view by the general public, with his face or person partially or completely concealed by means of a mask or other regalia or paraphernalia, with intent thereby to conceal the identity of such person.” The original version of the statute also established a presumption: “The w
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