Legal group says cities may be violating Constitution by banning trick-or-treating because of coronavirus

Some cities halted the Halloween tradition because of the coronavirus

Halloween is Saturday and with it, children across the country are readying for the annual tradition of donning a costume and trick-or-treating -- except in some cities that have banned it because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Those jurisdictions include Beverly Hills, Calif., according to ABC 7; El Paso and Hidalgo County, Texas, according to Spectrum News 1; Springfield, Mass., according to Western Mass News; and several others.

Los Angeles County banned trick-or-treating then backtracked, according to NBC Los Angeles. It still recommends against it, however. 

One libertarian group, the Pacific Legal Foundation, argues that trick-or-treating bans are unconstitutional. 

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"The decision to crack down on trick-or-treating is legally dubious. The First Amendment protects the right to go door-to-door for expressive purposes," Pacific Legal wrote in a blog post. "Halloween costumes have always had a particularly strong expressive component, and that is no less true in 2020."

It added: "This year, for instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci may be a popular costume choice, as might costumes related to ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and the upcoming presidential election. The government has no business banning this kind of expression."

Door-to-door canvassing, especially for political purposes, has been protected under the First Amendment. 

But there has been a flurry of legal challenges against state and local lockdown orders during the coronavirus pandemic, and many have been allowed to stand. Courts often said in recent months that emergency actions to control the spread of the pandemic fall under the general police power constitutionally afforded to local and state governments.

Twin girls dressed in Trump and Biden costumes for Halloween (Adrea Garza)

Twin girls dressed in Trump and Biden costumes for Halloween (Adrea Garza)

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Some courts, however, have also ruled that specific First Amendment activities, like Easter services, are subject to special protection and cannot be banned. It's unclear what courts might rule in any legal challenges to trick-or-treating bans. But Pacific Legal also argues trick-or-treating bans aimed at mitigating the pandemic might actually be counterproductive. 

"This type of ban also simply makes no sense. Governments should trust parents to encourage safe behaviors, rather than immediately turning to bans and restrictions," the group said. "And the sad thing is that these restrictions will also likely have the inverse impact. Rather than discouraging Halloween festivities, they will drive more people indoors and into less socially distance-friendly parties and gatherings. They will also generate more outrage and unwillingness to comply with health guidance in the future."

Pacific Legal has also panned other types of trick-or-treating bans in the past, including bans based age

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As coronavirus numbers continue to increase in many areas of the country, however, experts do recommend that families opt for more socially distanced Halloween activities or take precautions while trick-or-treating. 

“Avoid direct contact or large groups,” Dr. Leonard Krilov, chair of pediatrics and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Winthrop Hospital, told Fox News. “Outdoor activities are best when at a distance, such as touring Halloween house decorations in neighborhoods.”

Other socially distanced activities include visits to pumpkin patches or haunted mazes, small indoor or outdoor gatherings and scary movies. 

Fox News' Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.