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Mandate Freedom

When the federal government oversteps its bounds, it is up to states to protect individual liberties. In South Dakota, we take action to defend the personal choice to get the COVID-19 vaccine—or not. And with good reason.  
In December 2020, President-elect Joe Biden told Americans that he would not mandate COVID-19 vaccines. “No, I don’t think they should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it to be mandatory,” he said. 
Anthony Fauci sang the same tune. He said of vaccine mandates, “I don’t see it on a national level, merely because of all the situations you have encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice of their own health.”  
Six months ago, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the Biden Administration’s opposition to vaccine mandates, saying, “That’s not the role of the federal government.”  
 The Biden Administration’s supposed opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates may be one of the biggest lies ever told. Now we know what the president really believed. 
Weeks later, President Biden wildly changed course and announced wide-ranging and unconstitutional federal mandates that would force more than 100 million Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.  
Americans fought back against President Biden’s unprecedented power grab. Individuals said “NO,” and some state governments backed them up. I told President Biden, “We will see you in court.” We joined four lawsuits to stop the unconstitutional mandates. The good news is last month the Supreme Court blocked the OSHA mandate. In the face of defeat, the Biden Administration backed down and withdrew its vaccine mandate for large businesses. And we are making progress on the other mandates, as well. 
But we have already seen President Biden betray his promises to the American people on this issue. He could very well do it again and attempt to reinstate another mandate. The threat of more COVID-19 vaccine mandates has not gone away.  
If you give big government bureaucrats an inch, they will take a mile. That won’t happen on my watch. 
Individuals should be able to make a personal choice whether to get the COVID-19 vaccination. More than 70% of eligible South Dakotans have received at least one dose. We know that these vaccines can help keep patients out of the hospital. But it should be a choice. I issued an executive order to protect the right to religious and medical exemptions for state employees. Now I have introduced a bill to protect those exemptions for the rest of the citizens of South Dakota, too, if they face a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from their employer. 
The proposed law includes three exemptions that an employer must honor if they mandate the COVID-19 vaccine: for medical reasons, such as when an employee has a medical condition that would advise against getting this vaccine; for religious reasons, if a person objects to the COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds, which includes their moral or ethical beliefs and principles; or if an individual is naturally immune following an infection from COVID-19 and can provide a test result that shows positivity for the COVID-19 antibodies. 
No person should be forced to put their health in jeopardy because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. No one should be forced to abandon their religious principles. And no one should be forced to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they have natural immunity to the disease. 
South Dakota has set an example for the nation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We protected lives, and we also protected freedom. We didn’t shut down our state; we didn’t destroy our economy. We gave our citizens the information they needed to make decisions to protect themselves and their families. And we are thriving as a result. With this law, we will once again defend our people’s right to decide for themselves how to protect against COVID-19—and we will continue to fight unconstitutional mandates from Washington, DC.  


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