Giving the Power Back to the People – Bills Filed to Fight Vaccine Mandates in Tennessee (Update 1.27.23)

***Update 1/27/23 – HB0263 was withdrawn from consideration on January 20th, 2023. Rep. Richey stated that the language in one of the bills sections would have unintentionally contradicted his intent with the legislation. He went on to state that either he or another representative would likely end up sponsoring a new bill that does what HB0263 was originally meant to do.***

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

Ever since its initial release, the COVID-19 vaccine has been the subject of countless controversies across the United States.

Some Tennessee state legislators fought and have continued to fight on this issue.

As of January 19th, 2023, Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville-District 20) has introduced two immunization bills in the Tennessee House of Representatives that would effectively put certain medical freedoms and decisions back into the hands of Tennesseans. 

In response to some actions taken by Federal, State, and Local Governments, the Tennessee state legislature provided us with what is now current legislation. 

Present law prevents governmental entities, schools, and local education agencies (LEAs) from mandating that a person receive the Covid-19 vaccine. 

These entities are also prohibited from:

1 – Mandating that a business or school require proof that a person has received the Covid-19 vaccine.

2 – Compelling or otherwise taking adverse action to compel a person to provide proof of the Covid-19 vaccine, for any reason.

Even if an employer is exempt from these general prohibitions, they are still required to grant Covid-19 vaccine exemption requests made on the basis of medical or religious circumstances.

An addition to this current legislation, is Rep. Richey’s House Bill 0263 (HB0263) which according to the Tennessee General Assembly would make the above statements regarding proof of Covid-19 vaccine, applicable to all vaccinations. 

The provision prohibiting Covid-19 vaccine mandates would be applied more specifically “to any vaccination that has not received full approval from the federal food and drug administration [FDA].”

The language of this bill does away with any wiggle room concerning the FDA’s notorious “emergency use authorization” of the Covid-19 vaccine by stating that, “For purposes of this bill, ‘full approval’ does not include emergency use authorization.”

Rep. Richey’s House Bill 0264 (HB0264) goes a step further and would prevent “the state or a political subdivision of the state from requiring an immunization unless exemptions are provided for persons who file signed, written statements affirming that the immunization conflicts with their religious tenets and practices.”

The text goes on to clarify that when a person files a written statement for religious exemption, the governmental entity cannot require any additional proof of the person’s religious convictions.

Considering how many requests for religious exemptions have been denied or questioned over the last couple years, this aspect of the bill would seem to be of utmost importance.

With Rep. Richey’s proposed legislation, more power would be put back into the hands of the people regarding religious convictions and personal medical decisions. 

As further discussion occurs throughout this legislative session, it is the hope of many concerned Tennesseans that these bills remain largely unaltered and true to their original intent.

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee.

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