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Op-Ed: Promoting Misinformation

This article contains opinions and/or editorial content.

This week, as I walked through downtown, I noticed a sign posted on the door of a business.  It caught my eye because it was stating facts that are completely wrong.  It inspired this article because the facts are about federal law and the US Constitution–and the business is owned by someone who writes our state laws.

I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on.  I care that our elected representatives understand the Constitution and are honest about what our laws actually say.

The Statement

The important part of the sign says:

If you are not wearing a mask when you enter, we will assume you have a medical reason for not doing so.

Federal HIPAA laws and the 4th Amendment prohibit us from asking.

No.  They don’t.


HIPAA refers to The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  It’s a law regarding how your medical records and medical information are handled by “covered entities and their business associates”.  But… who are those “entities and associates”?

Covered entities under HIPAA include health plans, healthcare providers, and healthcare clearinghouses. Health plans include health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, government programs that pay for healthcare (Medicare for example), and military and veterans’ health programs.

HIPAA Journal

Business associates are businesses that provide medical-related services to covered entities (e.g., medical software companies like Epic).

HIPAA does not prohibit a business from asking why you’re not wearing a mask.

The Fourth Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s what the 4th says.  And it only applies to governments.  The 4th Amendment has zero relevance to how a business conducts its business.  It doesn’t prohibit a business from doing anything.

We Expect Better

Either this business owner–and elected member of our state government…

  1. doesn’t understand the US Constitution–the basis for, and rules under which, he is writing and passing laws.   Or…
  2. knows the laws and the Constitution and is intentionally lying to his constituents about them.

Both options are bad.

And there’s no reason for it.

If you are not wearing a mask when you enter, we will assume you have a medical reason for not doing so.

Out of a respect for your privacy, we will not ask.

Truth Not Tribes

I respect difference of opinion.  I respect differences in political philosophies.  Our nation was built by opposing sides coming together to debate the best ways to achieve what’s best for our country.  For 90% of it, it’s just disagreement on the path we take to reach the goal we all want.

Hateful partisanship needs to end NOW.  We can sit at the end of the bar and argue about politics until the beer runs out (and we should, it’s both fun and productive)–but we need to do it honestly with an understanding the facts, and accepting them as facts.

And we need to do it with respect–blunt, loud, occasionally vulgar respect, but respect.

When you’re broke down on a backroad in 2 feet of snow and more piling on, you don’t want a bumper sticker to determine whether someone stops to help or not.


  1. Outsider Outsider 2020-10-04

    Thank you for writing this. I should think that SCIENCE, especially MEDICAL SCIENCE should be our guide during this Pandemic, not politics. Wearing a mask is a simple and effective means to help us ALL (no matter one’s politics) give us time to mitigate as much of the damage this virus will cause, as we are certainly seeing now. Any politician who is trying to make this about politics over health should never be in a position to write laws regarding the health of their constituents. As a small business owner myself, I have suffered a great deal of financial harm caused by the virus, but I would NEVER put my business and my wallet above the health of myself and my family and certainly not above the health of my patrons. Looking at the long term (as a good business person SHOULD), helping to keep myself and my patrons healthy will insure they will be able to return at some point and my business would continue. NOT doing so, guarantees there will be a loss of patrons in the very near future…that is the bigger threat to a business remaining viable. There are safe ways to conduct business (albeit much smaller) and more ways to help each other through this crisis. I would hope any business owner would be considerate and require mask wearing if they remain open for business. A state representative in our government should take heed of this consideration for their community’s sake and for the sake of their own business.

    Kipp Inglis
    Spring Creek Art Works and A Botanical Dyery

    • Blaze Miskulin Blaze Miskulin Post author | 2020-10-04


      Just to be clear: The op-ed is not about whether or not a business should require patrons to wear masks. It’s about posting factually incorrect information to support their decision, when simply saying “we won’t ask why you’re not wearing a mask” would be sufficient. There’s no need to falsely invoke HIPAA or the Fourth Amendment.

      I believe that everyone should be wearing a mask in public. It’s annoying, but it’s the very least we can do to protect ourselves and those around us.

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