The Religious Exemption Protection Act introduced by Tennessee state Rep. Jay Reedy and co-sponsored by 16 other House members aims to prohibit governments from mandating vaccines and medical treatment for citizens.
The bill responds to concerns supercharged by COVID-19 that government agencies may force citizens to accept medical care against their conscience. Employees have already been fired for declining COVID-19 vaccination, setting up a precedent for people to lose jobs and face other consequences in the future for not accepting other medical demands. The development of available COVID-19 vaccines involved the use of testing from dead human body parts produced by abortion.
To protect citizens’ bodily integrity and conscience rights, House Bill 10 states:
A state agency or department shall not promulgate or enforce any rule, and a political subdivision of this state shall not promulgate, adopt, or enforce any ordinance or resolution, that requires medical examination, immunization, or treatment for those who object to the medical examination, immunization, or treatment on religious grounds or by right of conscience.
The bill is a direct safeguard to Article I, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution that states “no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” It also amends Title 68, the Tennessee health code, that was signed into law in 1905, which effectively permits the Department of Health the right to demand an individual receives a vaccination.
Title 68 was a reaction to the Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts that same year, which upheld the right of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. According to Title 68 of the Tennessee code, if an individual refuses a state-mandated vaccine they could receive a Class C misdemeanor and serve up to 30 days in jail.
The Religious Exemption Protection Act also aims to strike an exemption in the employee rights code. While the code permits an employee to refuse vaccination from an employer on religious grounds, it notably includes the language “except where the medical examination, immunization or treatment is necessary for the protection of the health or safety of others.”
So, in essence, the Tennessee state government currently has the right to determine what medical treatment is “necessary” for its people, rather than individuals in consultation with their doctors and religious authorities having the right to make such decisions about their own bodies.
Republican Rep. Robin T. Smith has been vocal in her objections to the bill aimed at protecting the freedoms of Americans from the overbearing state. ” … The militant antiVaxxer movement from all over the country is engaged on this bill and hiding behind the Cross of Jesus Christ … and its beginning to show,” Smith wrote on Instagram.
Smith is on the Health Subcommittee and supports House Bill 13, which does not strike the code that would prohibit the state from jailing an individual citizen if he or she does not comply with mandatory vaccinations. Smith also seeks to uphold the piece in the employee rights code that allows an employer to determine the necessity of a given medical treatment.
“The myth being perpetrated is that the bill would force employers to allow sick individuals to return to work without medical treatment due to their religious exemption and thereby put others at risk. This is a ludicrous statement and shows a complete lack of understanding regarding the law,” said Gary Humble, executive director of individual liberty nonprofit Tennessee Stands which is fighting for the bill.
“The bill simply removes an employer’s ability to force someone to receive an immunization or any sort of medical treatment as a condition of employment,” Humble continued. “However, the employer fully retains the right to have an employee stay home with or without pay if they are actually sick. Any statement to the contrary is implicitly false.”
Smith has reportedly influenced other Republicans, such as Rep. Bryan Terry, who is chairman of the Health Subcommittee, to potentially block the bill. Yet House Bill 10 promotes foundational conservative policies that should be a no-brainer for Republicans in the red stronghold, as well as Terry, whose legislature voting patterns show a commitment to freedom.
Radically defined “common good” principles are being conflated by Tennessee Republicans, who are overlooking the necessary balance of individual liberty from the overbearing state. Republicans should not be the party that stands for violating conscience rights and establishing the precedent of banning individuals from deciding what medical care to inject into their own bodies.
The Tennessee bill will be voted on in front of the House Public Health Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 2, and will require six votes to then be moved to the full committee for a vote.
Update: Terry told The Federalist in a follow-up: “My stance on the bill is conceptually I’m okay with it, but there is language within the bill that needed to be addressed. And the author of the bill spoke to me and admitted that things needed to be cleaned up and he’s working on that.”