Conservatives file lawsuit challenging Jerry Demings’ face mask order
John Stemberger addressees media about lawsuit challenging Orange County's mask order

John Stemberger
Charles Hart said no one advocates 'overreach' to fight malaria, Lyme disease, ebola, ringworm.

Three Central Florida conservative Republicans, Rep. Anthony Sabatini, John Stemberger, and Charles Hart, filed a lawsuit Monday morning challenging Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings‘ executive order that everyone wear face masks in public.

Sabatini, Stemberger, who is president of the Florida Family Policy Council, and Hart, who is chairman of the Orange County Republican Party – but who joined the suit as co-counsel saying he was doing so as an individual and not on behalf of the party – filed the suit in Circuit Court in Orange County.

Last Thursday, as Orange County’s COVID-19 caseload skyrocketed with almost daily records for newly-recorded cases, Demings signed an executive order requiring everyone in Orange County to wear face masks in public, with a few exceptions. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who said he would honor it in Orlando, and Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County’s health officer with the Florida Department of Health, who endorsed the order as necessary to try to slow Orange County’s outbreak, supported the move.

In a phone interview, Hart, a lawyer, called the order “massive government overreach” and contended it was a violation of the right to free speech.

At a press conference in Orlando Monday morning, Stemberger, counsel in the suit, charged that Demings order is not clear, and, among others, leaves church pastors wondering if they, too, must wear masks while preaching.

Demings said Thursday he was hoping people would voluntarily comply with the order and that it would not be enforced with any criminal penalties. However, he held open the prospect that if the public health crisis worsens and there are specific businesses openly flaunting the order he might reconsider.

Stemberger said the lawsuit would be dropped if Demings changed the word “require” to “recommend” for masks.

“This whole order … face masks, was just poorly done. It’s draconian. It’s confusing, it’s contradictory, and it’s unconstitutional,” Stemberger said. “I do not wish to be disrespectful, but the mayor of this county is playing games. He’s saying it’s voluntary on one hand, but on the other hand he’s saying ‘well, we may enforce it in the future, we’re not sure.”

Hart compared COVID-19 with Lyme disease, malaria, hookworm, west Nile, zika, and ebola, none of which have caused public health orders that amount to taking away people’s rights.

“And what’s really upsetting is, this is already beginning to re-affect our economy,” Hart said. “Now, I want to be clear; I’m not saying don’t take this seriously. I’m not saying, don’t be concerned. But at the same token, I’m saying, let’s trust people to exercise their rights as God has given to us as Americans.”

At his press conference Monday morning, Demings said he had not yet been briefed by the Orange County Attorney’s office on the lawsuit and so could not comment about it in any specific way. However, he defended his order, saying, “I still believe that what we are doing is a major approach in this community to responding appropriately to the current state of affairs regarding the COVID-19 virus that is raging amongst us.”

Orange County has become one of the state’s hotspots as Florida experiences a resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, the county confirmed 437 new cases, which broke the previous record of 342 set on Thursday, the day Demings signed his executive order. Last week alone, through Saturday, Orange County confirmed 1,809 of the 4,914 total cases it has suffered since the outbreak began in mi-March.

A rally drawing a couple dozen people preceded the press conference out front of the Orange County Court House. Almost no one at the rally wore masks. One woman held up a sign declaring, “My Body My Choice,” borrowing the message from the abortion-rights movement that Stemberger’s organization has long opposed.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


  • David

    June 22, 2020 at 10:37 am

    People, wake up. Mask saves lives. You wearing a mask is for other people’s protection who are around you. You wearing a mask protects those around you.

    The statement about other diseases makes no sense. They are not spread from person to person via droplets like Covid-19. Also, they have not killed this many people worldwide as Covid-19 has.

    Finally, how is a mandate requiring wearing a mask in public taking away your rights? You have to wear a seatbelt. You can’t drink and drive. You have to wear a shirt and shoes in most establishments. You can’t walk the streets nude. You can’t yell fire in a crowded building. You can’t yell bomb in an airport. You have to wear a mask when traveling on an airplane. I’m sure there are a myriad of other things you can’t do without getting in trouble. You get the picture. So, how is wearing a mandatory mask any different?

    Wearing a mask is not a forever thing. Once we beat it, we will not have to wear one any more. If everyone would do the right thing now, we can beat this novel pandemic sooner.

    • jon

      June 22, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      I don’t wear a seat belt either! The tree of liberty shall be watered!

      • Henry

        June 29, 2020 at 10:45 am

        You are an absolute idiot on both counts.

    • Kenneth Johnson

      June 23, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Thank you for your comments. You are so true. People need to wake up

  • Leslie Goller

    June 22, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Their legal argument is so facetious. For starters Masks violating your right of free speech— come on! LOL!
    Shame on these men!

    • jon

      June 22, 2020 at 2:33 pm

      Shame on you for having no backbone or what appears to be lack of ability to see government overreach!

      • Jon L

        June 25, 2020 at 7:54 pm

        Legally fight back-tie up the courts who try to enforce rules/mandates over our legal rights.

        • Henry

          June 29, 2020 at 10:39 am

          Your right to decide if to wear a mask does not trump (no pun intended but implied) my right to keep myself and family safe from infections by idiots that have no respect for others lives. That’s the same stupid arguments made years ago about people against DUIs. They said they have the right to decide for themselves if they want to risk their lives by driving while under the influence. Well, if you want to kill your self by wrapping your car around a tree it is fine by me. But when you risk killing one of my children or others on your way to the said tree, your right becomes null and void. Comparing it to Lyme disease, malaria, hookworm, west Nile, zika, and ebola? None of those have killed over 110K people in the US in four months. And none of them spread through droplets from the mouth. The first five are spread by mosquitoes and we spray for those constantly. Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids. “My body by choice”? Same people are up at arms when women claim the same about abortions.

  • Joannee White

    June 22, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    We have the right not to wear a mask. Our constitutional right. Our health. Our choice. A right to live or die Remember? Just because you think we should wear a mask doesn’t make it so.. There is no evidence saying mask stop the spread. But there is evidence that mask are dangerous to wear . Osha explains it very well. There will be lung diseases due to this and many law suits.

    • Leslie A. Goller

      June 22, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      Your ignorance is showing.

    • Henry

      June 29, 2020 at 10:43 am

      Even the government’s health experts are saying that according to studies wearing masks definitely stops the spread to others and they provide some protection for yourself. Doctors and nurses wear masks for 8 hours with no health effects. My wife is a nurse and wore masks all day long in the OR. Are you going to be in a store for 8 straight hours. Use your brain moron. The amount of people that may suffer some health effects is minimal compared to the number of people that will die from others not wearing a mask and spreading the disease.

  • Barry Draper

    June 22, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    We were told we needed to “flatten the curve.” Mission accomplished at the expense of over 40 Million livelyhoods. The virus is among us. Here are the numbers – 25% to 50% of those of us exposed with “catch it” but remain asymptomatic. 15% to 25% of those who “catch it” will have minor symptoms and their bodies will clear the virus. 5% tp 10% will experience more severe symptoms but will also fully recover. The remainder (mostly those over the age of 70 and who have major comorbidity factors) will be hospitalized. A small percentage will die.

    According to the CDC THAT number is .4% if the “asymptomatic” figure is 25%, and .26% if the asymptomatic figure is 50%. 2017’s Flu season was nearly as bad. Infact, in Orange County had 117 deaths in the 2017 flu season.

    We WANT the virus to spread, don’t we? So we can be done with it. The only reason I see to prevent the spread at this point is to allow time for big pharma to release a panic-profit driven “vaccine” which will be rushed forward without adequate safety testing. My mask is my immune system.

    • Florida Girl

      June 27, 2020 at 11:33 pm

      Eloquently put

    • Henry

      June 29, 2020 at 10:54 am

      The flu epidemic lasted two years. This virus has killed over 110K in just four months. So you want to put a price on the lives of the elderly? How much is your mother worth? Or your grandmother? Are you willing to give them up to recover the economy? You may as well put a price on them. No economic recovery is worth the lives of people. European countries have flattened the curve and kept it that way by the same measures you are complaining against. They are recovering their economy while we are killing people. That is why they are opening travel but denying entry from the US. Because we are the epicenter of the virus now and we are still not doing it right.

  • Kenneth Johnson

    June 23, 2020 at 11:17 am

    These people are ridiculous. You cant trust people to do the right thing,look how many cases have gone up in Orlando due to people not caring. Thinking it is infringing on the constitution rights. Please, that’s just an excuse. It’s all about health. And for that idiot that said look at Ebola, people did have to be isolated and in masks who came into contact. The only way to slow the virus is wear masks and social distancing. People wake up. When the people protesting and trying to sue get really sick or a loved one dies,then they will be preaching a different tone. Thank you Mayor Demings and dont back down.

    • jon

      June 23, 2020 at 3:03 pm


  • romaine l pugin

    June 23, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    The tests don’t work. Period. This whole hoax is to give more power to the despots and you sheep are handing it to them. Turn off your Tell a Vision. Masks OBVIOUSLY lower oxygen levels, I don’t need some government paid shill to tell me otherwise.

    • Jamila

      June 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

      Exactly, spot on!

Comments are closed.


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