Kosciusko County attorney Edward Ormsby reads the resolution declaring the county a “Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County” during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday morning. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Kosciusko County attorney Edward Ormsby reads the resolution declaring the county a “Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County” during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday morning. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Kosciusko County is now a “Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County.”

During the County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, they approved a resolution “supporting the protection of rights under the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Indiana” and an ordinance “regarding the protection of rights under the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Indiana.”

Sheriff Kyle P. Dukes, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine, also provided, through one of his officers, a proclamation “supporting the protection of rights” under the Constitution of the U.S. and the state of Indiana.

The resolution and ordinance are not to be confused with immigration sanctuary cities, which refers to municipal jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with the national government’s effort to enforce immigration law.

New county attorney Edward Ormsby presented the resolution and ordinance regarding the Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County. He read aloud the four-page resolution and the two-page ordinance.

In part, the resolution states that the “Board maintains a strong commitment to all of the rights of the people in the county as stated in the Constitutions ... including, but not limited to, the declaration of emergencies, including, but not limited to, the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It says the board “opposes the adoption of laws, ordinances, rules, regulations, restrictions and other governmental documents of legal force that unlawfully infringe upon the rights secured by said Constitutions.”

The resolution refers to the recent Supreme Court case of Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Andrew M. Cuomo, governor of New York where the Court stated that “even in a pandemic the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”

The rights of said Constitutions stated in the resolution “appear to be the most in jeopardy at this particular time in our country’s history and that no one should construe the absence of a stated right as protected by said Constitution to mean that said right is not vigorously supported and protected by the county and its officials and officers,” according to the resolution.

The resolution refers to the First, Second, Fourth and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States. The First refers to Congress not making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The Second refers to the right to bear arms, while the Fourth refers to unreasonable searches and seizures and warrants. The Tenth states that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

The resolution also quotes Sections 1-3, 6-9, 18, 18-20 and 24 of Article One of the Constitution of the state of Indiana. The sections refer to ideas that “all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights”; that all free governments are founded on the people’s authority; that “all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God ... that no man shall be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent”; that no power of suspending the operation of the laws “shall be exercised” except by the legislature or its authority; rights of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures; that “the printing presses shall be free to every person .. and no law shall ever be made to restrain the right thereof”; as well as rights to assemble peaceably, bear arms, etc.

After declaring the county as a “Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County,” the resolution encourages and requests that all agencies, departments and officers of the county continue to uphold their oaths not to infringe upon the rights and liberties of the persons and individuals in the county; review and change, if necessary, their rules, regulations, orders, policies, practices and all governmental documents of legal force for conformity to said Constitutions; and adopt resolutions, proclamations or commitments similar to the resolution for the protection of the Constitutional rights and liberties of the persons and individuals in Kosciusko County.

Commissioner Bob Conley made the motion to accept the resolution, and Commissioner Cary Groninger provided the second.

Before the unanimous vote to approve the resolution, Commissioner Brad Jackson recognized Scott Metcalf. Metcalf came to Jackson “some time ago” about a resolution that had been approved across the United States, mainly about the Second Amendment.

“I am a strong Constitutionalist, to say the least, so I appreciate Scott taking the time to submit that and making a difference. This is happening today,” Jackson said. He had Metcalf stand and he was given a round of applause. “One person can start something, and that’s kind of what we’re hoping here. I feel as a country, our Constitution by some is being disregarded. I’ve even heard people say it’s an antiquated, outdated document. I disagree with that. I feel that the Constitution ... was firmly divinely inspired and I want to do everything we can to defend it.”

Conley said he knows in his heart “that the power of the Holy Spirit of our God in heaven had his hand on this country from the very beginning. And I’ll defend that to the death, and I’m sure the other commissioners will do the same thing.”

Groninger said, “I think it’s somewhat sad that we even have to do an ordinance like this. We’re not asking anybody to do anything different than what the Constitution already says. It’s not going to change the law. It’s just stating that we’re going to uphold what laws are already out there. It’s just a sad state of affairs that we even have to do this.”

Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office Captain Travis Marsh presented the proclamation from Sheriff Dukes. It says, in part, Dukes does support the declaration of the county as a “Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County” and he commits “to stand and defend at all times, whether during a state of emergency or otherwise, the rights and liberties of the persons and individuals in Kosciusko County” as guaranteed by the U.S. and state Constitutions.

Ormsby then presented the ordinance which states, in part, the ordinances of the county “shall be recodified and published for the public’s review and knowledge” on the county’s website; “shall be reviewed by the board for compliance under the Constitutions”; and “reduced where possible and prudent to eliminate unnecessary regulations.” It also states the county is “now, and forever shall be, a Constitutional Rights Sanctuary County.”

The ordinance states that all agencies and departments of the county under the commissioners’ authority shall “take due care at all times, whether during a state of emergency or otherwise, not to infringe upon the rights and liberties of the persons and individuals in Kosciusko County as stated” in the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions; and “review and change if necessary their rules, regulations, orders, policies, practices and all governmental documents of legal force for conformity to said Constitutions.”