Commentary: Morris GOP clique puts politics over public health

The New Jersey State House. Photo courtesy of


By Joe Attamante


We are all entitled to our rights and freedoms.

But we are not free to drive without a license, or to withhold it from an officer on demand. Nor are we free to exceed the speed limit, or board a plane without having our documents and bodies inspected. We cannot do whatever we want whenever we want.

Most of us accept these and other restrictions as well as the penalties for violating them as reasonable, because they protect all of us from possible harm and are needed in a viable society.

However, some New Jersey Republicans — notably Morris County Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-25th Dist.) and Morris County Republican Committee Chairwoman Laura Ali — insist, in print, online and on TV, that requiring proof of vaccination or a COVID test to enter the State House threatens freedom.

Assemblyman Bergen was among those who, to make their point last month, entered the State House, refused to show proof of vaccination or take a COVID test, then walked past State Troopers who attempted to bar their way.

In a letter rebutting a newspaper editorial deploring the protest, Chairwoman Ali asserted Gov. Murphy’s COVID mandates were “tyrannical” and have “ruined lives.”

Apparently attempting to prove mandates are ill-advised, she averred that 25 percent of COVID cases are among the vaccinated. However, she could just as accurately have said the remaining 75 percent occur among the unvaccinated.

As COVID cases spike in New Jersey, Gov. Murphy would be guilty of negligence and malfeasance if he allowed anyone to enter the State House without restriction.

Nevertheless, as was clearly evident from images of Republican Assembly members entering the State House, they believe it’s OK for them, and acceptable public health practice to permit anyone, vaccinated or not, to mingle freely in the state capitol building.

Do these elected officials truly believe, as anyone could reasonably conclude from their actions and statements, that anyone who disagrees with public health emergency restrictions intended to limit exposure to this highly infectious, deadly pathogen, in the middle of a surge in cases, should be exempt?

And if they say they don’t believe in such exemptions, surely, they know their public behavior and statements send a clear message that others will follow: It’s OK to flout health and safety rules you don’t agree with. Please ask yourself: Will following their example reduce or increase COVID infections and transmissions?

With New Jerseyans having already suffered 1.4 million cases, 28,000-plus deaths, tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and with many more still suffering from this virus, it is unconscionable to attack reasonable measures to prevent needless infections, hospitalizations and the deaths that inevitably will follow.

All of our elected representatives of either party have a moral and legal obligation to work together to prevent more needless suffering and death.

Joe Attamante is a longtime resident of Morris Township.

The opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.

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  1. Excellent commentary, Mr. Attamant. I am SICK and TIRED of hearing about politicians who don’t seem to care one bit about the COMMON GOOD, which some of us learned about many moons ago while we took civics classes in school and were subject to the exemplary attitudes and behavior of many of the adults in our lives. Along with freedom comes responsibility, and too many of our elected politicians seem to have forgotten this.

  2. Thank you Mr. Attamante for your eloquent commentary. It’s time we stop focusing so intently on protecting our individual rights and start living up to our responsibilities to the community and our democracy.