URGENT SOUTH DAKOTA: Support the COVID Vaccine Freedom of Conscience Act, Allowing Conscientious Objections

Our Stand: At-A-Glance

  • On Wednesday February 16th Speaker of the House Gosch amended House Bill 1258. As amended it will give protections to South Dakotans against Covid19 vaccine mandates.
  • The amended version of Bill 1258 passed the House Committee hearing last week and will be heard on the House floor tomorrow, February 22.
  • The bill will create an additional exemption (beyond the 1964 Civil Rights Act) to the COVID-19 vaccines for the purpose of conscientious objections, along with clear guidance to state courts upon violation of a conscience objection.
  • Codifying Covid-19 vaccine religious and medical exemptions would be in-line with South Dakota’s long standing exemption policy for vaccine mandates, that the state places on both public and private school enrollees, and consistent with the protections being passed in other states. It’s not ideal, but adding a conscientious exemption to the medical and religious is a step in the right direction.
  • We have an amazing opportunity to support this important legislation. Please join us by contacting your Legislators and asking them to support this bill. Although we cannot testify for the hearing on the floor, you can:
    • Share your story with your Legislator; and
    • Stand by for further calls to action when it successfully passes the House and moves to the Senate.

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Our Stand: The Full Story

The amended version of Bill 1258 passed the House Committee hearing last week and will be heard on the House floor this Wednesday, February 23.

Prior to COVID-19, religious or medical exemptions were exercised by parents or guardians of children who can no longer receive vaccinations and/or for siblings of vaccine injured children, which fails to meet the strict CDC guidelines pertaining to medical exemptions.

COVID-19 vaccine mandates are now standard practice for South Dakota employers—they’ve become a condition of employment for both new and existing workers. Due to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees have the right to request a medical or religious exemption to this condition of employment. Not only is the refusal or acceptance of a vaccine exemption left to the sole discretion of the employer, but also, in many cases, attestations of faith have been questioned or denied and no laws exist for employee protections. Add to this the fact that medical providers have expressed fear of reprisal and often refuse to write medical exemptions, even when clearly indicated.

Once terminated, unemployment benefits are not guaranteed, even though they’re paid into by the employee and held by the state. If it’s determined that an employer did not act in good faith, an employee might be issued a “right to sue.” So far, these cases have not moved forward as further instruction and for fair implementation, clarity must be provided to the South Dakota judicial branch.

If enacted by the people of South Dakota, HB 1258, as revised, would establish an additional exemption to the COVID-19 vaccines for the purpose of conscientious objections, along with clear guidance to state courts upon violation of a such an objection.
The authors of this bill have thankfully considered the people of South Dakota in drafting language that provides access to a conscientious objection, defined as “a person’s inner conviction of what is right or wrong.”

We have an amazing opportunity to support this important legislation. Please join us by contacting your Legislators and asking them to support this bill. Although we cannot testify for the hearing on the floor, you can:

  • Share your story with your Legislator; and
  • Stand by for further calls to action when it successfully passes the House and moves to the Senate.

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