FILE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

(The Center Square) — Five Skamania County businesses want to stop Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 restrictions, according to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by a free market think tank.

Filed in Skamania County Superior Court on October 1, the lawsuit names Gov. Inslee and the Department of Labor and Industries as defendants. It requests an injunction be granted to halt Inslee’s public health restrictions on businesses.

“Gov. Inslee’s draconian response has been disproportionate to the threats caused by COVID-19,” said Caleb Jon Vandenbos, an attorney for the Freedom Foundation, which is representing the plaintiffs.

Inslee required all businesses statewide to refuse service to customers not wearing a mask per a declaration issued on July 7. In Skamania County, one resident has died of the virus and five more have been infected.

“Nothing about COVID-19 has been extraordinary except the panicked and panic-inducing response from the government and the media,” Vandenbos said. “And, of course, the unprecedented strain this over-reaction has placed on thousands of Washington families and individuals.”

Rural Skamania County is home to around 12,000 people spread out over 1,683 square miles.

“Even if the governor’s heavy-handed response made sense in other parts of the state, it’s absolutely inappropriate in a rural community like Skamania County,” Vandenbos said. “The federal and state constitutions do not permit a one-size-fits-all approach when the government seeks to limit deep and basic rights.”

The Freedom Foundation insists that Inslee’s declaration is vague and unjustified in addition to costing businesses for years should the virus remain unsuppressed.

“Most fundamentally of all, Gov. Inslee doesn’t have the constitutional authority to force people to live their lives behind a mask,” said Freedom Foundation National Director Aaron Withe. “Mandating mask wearing violates our rights to free speech because it sends the message that individuals agree with the governor’s opinion; meanwhile, when business owners don’t require their customers to wear a mask, it communicates their dissent from the state’s preferred narrative.”

A Washington water park lost a similar lawsuit against Inslee over the summer after openly violating state public health orders during tourist season.

The Freedom Foundation previously sued Inslee over the state’s face mask order, claiming it violated the state constitution. The case remains open.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.