Paul Driftmier Sr.

Paul Driftmier Sr., Verona, is one of 17 Wisconsin residents who filed a lawsuit May 20, in federal court in Milwaukee asking for public health orders at all government levels related to the COVID-19 pandemic to be considered unconstitutional. Driftmier says the local orders “trampled on rights.”

A Verona business owner has joined a lawsuit that is asking for public health orders at all government levels related to the COVID-19 pandemic to be considered unconstitutional.

Paul Driftmier Sr., Verona, is one of 17 Wisconsin residents who filed a lawsuit May 20, in federal court in Milwaukee that contends Gov. Tony Evers and lawmakers “trampled on rights” with the Safer at Home order in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit alleges the local stay-at-home orders that took effect after the Supreme Court overturned Evers’ statewide order also are unconstitutional, violating the plaintiffs’ civil rights to freely assemble and to freely exercise their religion.

Driftmier, who owns a photography business in Madison and a voice recording business and whose wife runs her own design business, said he has ideological differences with Dane County’s Forward Dane phased reopening plan.

“I’m not joining this lawsuit because it’s hurting me,” Driftmier said. “The reason I signed onto it is I don’t want to see my communities and neighbors hurt any more than they already have been.”

Others who filed the lawsuit include business owners, candidates for office, a pastor and one of the organizers in last month’s reopen Wisconsin protest.

Forward Dane mandates a phased-in approach to limit the size of public gatherings and the number of people allowed at one time into stores, restaurants and other venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The county entered Phase I of the plan May 26, limiting gatherings outside or at a commercial facility to 25 people or less and at a private residence of 10 or less. Restaurants and bars are capped at 25% capacity.

Driftmier, president of the Exploration Academy Governance Council, said the seniors at the Exploration Academy charter school in Verona are among the groups most hurt by state lawmakers’ decision because they are not getting the chance for a graduation ceremony.

“They are being deprived of the ceremony of graduation,” Driftmier said. “It’s the watershed moment of their lives so far, and it’s not happening for a capricious reason. Their rights are being trampled on. It makes my head want to explode. It puts a bad taste in their mouth that will affect them forever.”

When asked how his freedom of speech and right to protest have been curtailed, he shared a push from some to reopen the state.

Driftmier said if he wanted to go to the Capitol Square in Madison to protest, state lawmakers were declining permits, and petitions to reopen the state were being rejected.

“I don’t want to be the guy who lets fear even if it’s a community full of fear put a stop to an individuals’ natural rights,” he said.

Driftmier said if he had a pool boy, that person couldn’t tell him when he could swim and who could join him.

“I hope to prevail and send a loud “pool boy” message that these people in Madison are public servants,” he said. “You don’t get to decide when we work, when we are on lockdown and when we go to church. The laws are to protect us; not to put us on house arrest.”