Public Health and Limited Government

Public Health and Limited Government

BB Blog By Phillip G. Kayser 11-16-2015

God’s law authorizes both religious instruction[1] and very limited civil regulations[2] to protect the public from highly infectious diseases, molds, and environmental conditions[3] that can “defile” people[4] and land.[5] This includes limited statutes regulating pollution,[6] treatment of dead bodies,[7] and spreading infections.[8] Since the Bible includes no penalties, these regulations should have no penalties and no policing powers attached to them.[9] But they would still be important since they would provide the legal basis for a citizen suing for damages in court if there was deliberate negligence. These laws could cover methods of quarantine in the case of infection or gross pollution. However, since the Scripture gives no basis for forcing conformity, there would be no basis for forcing vaccination, medication, or quarantine unless citizens could prove endangerment to themselves.

However, since the civil government has a duty to protect its citizens from the unlawful attacks of both foreigners[10] and citizens,[11] it would be legitimate to take action against those who deliberately seek to kill or terrorize by spreading plague.[12]While this duty cannot by extension lead a government to provide protection from all disease or harm, or to require vaccination, we believe that there is a legitimate role for the government to require quarantine for those who contract highly infectious diseases during epidemics.[13]

No disease, including AIDS and HIV, should be given special protected legal status.

Criminal penalties should apply to those whose willful acts of spreading disease place members of the public at toxic risk. These willful acts could include deliberate attempts to poison water and food, deliberate attempts to spread infectious diseases by mail or by aerosol, and deliberate attempts to spread one’s own disease through unlawful contact.


  1. Deut. 24:8
  2. Numb. 5:1-4
  3. Lev. 13:1-15:15; 18:24; Deut. 20:19-20; 23:12-14
  4. Lev. 18:24,30
  5. Lev. 18:25,27,28
  6. Lev. 13:1-15:15; Exodus 22:5-6. For a helpful commentary on the difficult issues relating to pollution, see Gary North, Tools of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), chapter 18.
  7. Deut. 21:23
  8. Lev. 13-15; Numb. 5:1-4
  9. Similar to the regulation for safety on well coverings (Ex. 21:33-34), the need to have dangerous a`nimals penned (Ex. 21:35-36), and the need to have fences around an occupied flat roof (Deut. 22:8). Though there was no penalty for failing to do so, when prosecuted by a citizen for actual damages resulting from such negligence, the person would be more likely to be liable for damages.
  10. Judges 3:15; Neh. 9:27; Obad. 21
  11. Jer. 21:12; 22:3
  12. Exodus 21:12-15 with Numb. 25:8-9; 31:16; Josh 22:17
  13. Lev. 13:45-46; Numb. 5:1-4; 12:14-16; 2Kings 15:1-5 all deal with principles of quarantine. It is interesting however that it was not the state that had the power to determine a diseased or healed condition, but the priests (Lev. 13-14; Deut. 24:8). Furthermore, the priests did not have police power to investigate homes or to search for diseases that needed quarantining. Instead, citizens “brought” the infected person to the priest for examination (Lev. 13:2,9; 14:2). The need for citizen, church, and state to all be involved in the process helps to prevent abuses from occurring.