Editor’s note: We are thrilled to welcome Jonathan Hewitt to our staff! Jonathan, who is a former Marine and law enforcement officer, will serve as our Capitol Correspondent, as well as work special assignments. This is his first article for Ignite Liberty. We hope you will enjoy his insight and work as much as we do!
Hospital Systems Crack Down On CCP Vaccine Requirements
Over the past several weeks, multiple hospitals around the Oklahoma City area have instituted new policies that would require their employees to receive the COVID-19 Vaccine or be faced with possible termination.
On July 7th, Mercy Hospital released a statement stating that employees would be required to have received the vaccine by September 30th of this year. Inside the statement, Mercy cites the Delta Variant and “the real-world impact of the protection vaccines provides” as the reasons for making the new requirement.
Dr. John Mohart, Mercy’s senior vice president of clinical services, said, “What we are seeing aligns with the Associated Press analysis of the CDC data”, “…the data is clear. Vaccination is key to saving lives”. Inside Mercy’s newsletter, they end with that they have not yet created a compliance plan but intend to have one prepared before the September 30th deadline.
SSM, the catholic non-profit healthcare system that operates St Anthony’s in downtown Oklahoma City, also released that they would require their employees to receive the vaccination. SSM did, however, provide that employees and team members may request an exemption for religious or medical reasons. No other guidance on that portion of the policy is available currently.
OU Health The Lone Standout
University of Oklahoma has also released a policy regarding the requirement of vaccination for their employees. Ignite Liberty spoke with April Sandefer, Director of Communications at OU Health, who provided Ignite Liberty with a statement that was made by Kris Gose, RN, Interim Chief Operating Officer of OU Health.
In her statement she said, “Under very limited circumstances, employees may be able to decline the vaccine. Approved reasons include a medical contraindication, philsophical objection, or religious beliefs.” Sandefer stated that the wording of the declination is the same as in OU’s flu vaccination that they have used for several years.
Ignite Liberty has inquired with SSM, Mercy, Integris, and OSU regarding their vaccination requirements but at the time of this writing they have refused to answer any inquiries sent.
Roberts Leads Legislative Response
In response to this, a group of GOP lawmakers at the State Capitol have drafted and sent a letter to Governor Stitt requesting that he intervene. On July 15th, Representative Sean Roberts R-Hominy drafted a letter that would go on to be signed by 19 other lawmakers requesting that Stitt either release an executive order prohibiting these sorts of mandates in the state or call the legislature to a special session to address the issue. In the letter, Rep. Roberts dissents on the idea of obstructing Oklahomans civil liberties stating:
“Many Oklahomans are about to have their paychecks used against them to make a medical decision that goes against their beliefs. Healthcare workers are left to choose between taking a vaccine authorized for emergency use or risk losing their job, this goes against “liberty and justice for all”. If we do not protect the individual’s right to choose what goes in their body, we no longer live in a free society.”
The liberties that he speaks of are that people are responsible and have decisions over their own bodies. They can be educated about the threats of COVID-19, but the right to choose whether to receive the minimally tested vaccine remains with them. The letter concludes with the legislatures requesting that the governor act:
“Those signed onto this letter, and I respectfully request you draft an executive order to deal with this issue. If you deem this to be an issue the legislature needs to take care of, we respectfully request you call the legislature into special session to end medical tyranny and help us secure and protect our most basic human rights and civil liberties.”
The list of legislators who signed the letter are:
Rep. Sean Roberts R-Hominy
Rep. Danny Williams R-Seminole
Rep. David Hardin, R-Stilwell
Rep. Randy Randlemen, R-Eufala
Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener
Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore
Rep. Wendi Stearman, R-Collinsville
Rep. David Smith, R-Arpelar
Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks
Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola
Rep. Chris Sneed, R-Fort Gibson
Rep. Sherri Conley, R-Newcastle
Rep. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany
Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso
Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow
Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane
Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene
Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland
Rep. Denise Crosswhite, R-Piedmont
Rep Steve Bashore, R-Miami
Many of the names on this list you may recognize if you followed the last Legislative Session. That is because Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland) authored HB1057; a bill that if passed would have prohibited employers from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. This bill passed its first reading and was the referred to States Right Committee, where it failed to pass.
You may also remember Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore) as he authored HB1671, which was like HB1057 in that if passed would not allow business to require the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. This bill was referred to Rules Committee, where is also failed to pass. Since neither of those bills passed out of committee, they will have to be reintroduced next legislative session
Oklahoma Could Lead The Way
If the Governor does choose to and enact an Executive Order banning vaccine requirements, Oklahoma would be the eighth state to do so. State governments in Arizona, Florida, Montana, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Idaho already have either legislation or executive orders in place that in some way prohibits vaccination requirements.
If Governor Stitt believes it to be the legislature’s job to enact a law to address vaccination requirements and he chooses to call a special session, it would be interesting to see where the Representatives fall on this issue as only 20 of the 82 Republicans in the House signed onto this letter.
On July 23rd, Ignite Liberty reached out to Rep. Sean Roberts office to comment and see what momentum the letter had generated within the House and the Governor’s Office. The staff of Roberts told Ignite Liberty that they had not received any formal response from the Governor’s Office regarding the letter. However, they have received word from sources regarding various phone calls made to the Governor’s office. The Governor has expressed in these phone calls that he does not feel comfortable telling private businesses what they can and cannot do.
Ignite Liberty reached out for a comment from the Governor’s Office, but at this time, no comment was available. Ignite Liberty will continue to track and monitor the progress of this letter, responses from different representatives, and the Governor’s actions regarding the request.
– Jonathan Hewitt
Office of Representative Sean Roberts
Office of Governor Stitt