Vinita Residents Sue Chuck Hoskin for Civil Rights Abuses

This story originally appeared as an op-ed in the Washington Times.

You’ve heard the stories. Stories that are becoming too numerous to count. Stories of despotic governors ordering helicopter surveillance of local golf courses. Stories of city council members dictating who can and cannot sell garden seeds. Stories of police officers taking the license-plate numbers of parishioners parked in church parking lots. Stories of patrolmen chasing down lone joggers on the public beach.

Story after story of big-city mayors who fancy themselves your Big Brother rather than your public servant. Stories of oligarchical arrogance that prior to, oh, let’s say about five minutes ago, most of us considered to be the stuff of dystopian novels rather than the reality of our daily lives.

Well, in the midst of such irrefutable proof that “power corrupts and absolute power, corrupts absolutely,” the winner of this week’s Brave New World Award hails, not from California or New York, but from Oklahoma — the reddest of the red states — a state that has not had one county vote blue in any of the past four presidential elections.

On April 13, a courageous law firm known as Lee|Coats in the small town of Vinita, Oklahoma, issued the following statement (Note: This quote is lengthy but very important. Please be patient and read the entire thing):

“Lee|Coats Law has filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief and Injunctive Relief against the City of Vinita, and Mayor Chuck Hoskin …

“[Our] suit challenges the constitutionality of Vinita Municipal Supplemental Emergency Ordinance 3725, which was enacted on April 7, 2020. This Ordinance … violates numerous constitutional rights of Oklahoma citizens, including the freedom of religion, speech, assembly, travel, and many others …

“City officials, with Mayor Chuck Hoskin leading the way, have tried their best to mislead the public into believing this is merely a curfew and not a mandatory stay at home order.

“This is flat out not true. [In fact], this Ordinance states: ‘Citizens, residents, and visitors within the city limits of Vinita shall stay at their home … except when being engaged in traveling to or from work or while engaging in work activities in a critical infrastructure sector … [Approved exceptions are] … those errands which are critical to everyday life and include; obtaining medications, groceries, gasoline, and visiting medical providers [or providers of] personal mental health, and [engaging in] exercise as set forth [by this council].’”

Lee/Coats continues, “This Ordinance makes it illegal [and punishable by up to 30 days in jail] to [leave one’s residence] for any reason [other than those activities approved by the city council]. [Otherwise] citizens are prohibited 24 hours per day, seven days per week, from leaving their homes.

“This Ordinance makes it illegal to do numerous harmless acts which involve no contact or physical interaction with non-household members. Here are but a few of the many things that are now illegal to do in the City of Vinita:

“Traveling to, from, or attending a C.D.C. compliant church service — even if said service is conducted in the parking lot of the church, and each attendee sits separately in their own vehicle.

“Traveling to take food to, or to check on a loved one, even if you do not enter their home.

“Traveling to go hunting alone or with only household members.

“Traveling to go fishing alone or with only household members.

“Driving — even if you are alone in your own car — for no reason other than to get outside.

“Driving by a loved one’s home, without stopping, [to wish them a happy] birthday …

“These restrictions are unacceptable. The Constitutional rights of all who live, reside, or pass through the city limits of Vinita have been revoked by an overzealous government. As citizens, pastors, church parishioners, businesswomen, and businessmen of Vinita, we have a duty to stand up for the Constitutional rights guaranteed to each of us.

“For these reasons, we have filed a lawsuit seeking, not money, but a Declaration from the Court that the City has gone too far …”

Let’s all stand and give a round of applause to Mayor Chuck Hoskin of Vinita, Oklahoma, who is this week’s winner of the Aldous Huxley Award for Overbearing Arrogance.

Under what imperious conception of governance, does he believe it is within his power to tell anyone that they can’t go hunting and fishing alone? What business is it of his to dictate when you can or cannot drive by grandma’s house and shout happy birthday to her out your car window? Who gave this little emperor with no clothes the right to tell you when you can or can’t take a jog through the local park, even when you are alone?

Endnote: If you want to send a big thank you to Lee/Coats and the citizens of Vinita for telling this petty little tyrant to go pound sand, here’s the site to do so,

Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).

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