Can the U.S government make its citizens wear masks?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over twenty states have issued mask mandates for citizens in public areas.
The question is: Are these mask mandates constitutional?
Some citizens argue that these mask mandates violate their First Amendment rights of free speech and the liberty they have to make choices about their bodies. They feel that since it's their body, it's their choice.
However, masks don't violate the First Amendment. Masks don't keep citizens from expressing themselves, unless of course a certain citizen has a speech disability, and a mask limits the clarity of their speech therefore violating their right of free speech.
Additionally, the "my body, my choice" slogan doesn't hold water with regard to mask mandates because the government has the authority to protect the health and safety of the community. So, although a mask mandate may violate one's liberty, for the sake of public health, the government is allowed to enforce the ordinance.
The 1905 case of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts is as an example of just that; the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of a state law mandating compulsory vaccinations against smallpox. It didn't matter if the citizens of Massachusetts believed this compulsory vaccination violated their constitutional rights, the government passed the law anyway in the name of public health.
Nevertheless, even if the government hypothetically concedes that the mask mandates are a violation of the First Amendment, the government can enforce "time, place, and manner" restrictions. These are limitations of the First Amendment, however they must be content-neutral, meaning that these restrictions cannot discriminate on the content of your speech. So, mask mandates can be classified as "time, place, and manner" restrictions because a mask doesn't discriminate on the content of a citizens speech, it just limits the noise of their speech. Therefore, mask mandates do not violate the First Amendment.
Furthermore, mask mandates are constitutional because the government can exercise something called "police power." This law enables the government to enact and enforce laws/behavior to protect public health even if it violates the constitution (to a certain degree). The mandatory mask decrees are an example of the government exercising its "police power" to protect citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though mask mandates are constitutional, Vice President Mike Pence disagrees. He wants to "remind you [American citizens] [that] freedom of speech is in the Constitution of the U.S. Even in a health crisis, the American people don't forfeit our constitutional rights." Yes, Mr. Pence, freedom of speech is indeed in the constitution -- but masks do not violate it.
While the constitution is the backbone of America, blindly shackling oneself to it by not wearing a mask is ignorant. In my opinion, America's mask mandates serve to genuinely protect citizens' health.