The Tennessee Senate Continues To Delay The Religious Exemption Protection Act, Allowing Action To Be Deferred To Next Week. This Delay Allows Additional Time For Individuals To Contact Committee Members To Support This Bill.
Photo Credit: Public Domain
Published March 26, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
The Tennessee Senate continues to delay the Religious Exemption Protection Act, allowing action to be deferred in Thursday’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting.
Senate Bill (SB) 187 is sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling of District 16. Bowling began the session by reintroducing the bill to committee members, as well as going over an amendment to the legislation.
SB 187 and its companion bill House Bill 13 prohibit state and local authorities from forcing individuals to be vaccinated for COVID-19 if the individuals do not wish to do so. It also removes limitations to a person’s ability to object on religious grounds.
Bowling stated several times that the goal of the bill was to “assuage fear” that people had about being forced to take a vaccine and to “claw back lost constitutional integrity.”
Members then heard from Joe Burchfield of the Tennessee Hospital Association. Burchfield was present to address a portion of the bill that states that government entities cannot require that individuals be vaccinated. His concern stemmed from the fact that some hospitals in the state are government-run facilities, and there could be a situation where they needed to require the vaccine for certain employees to work in particular areas such as the NICU or CCU.
Burchfield concluded his point with an appeal for an exception to be made for those government-run health care facilities.
“Recognizing that COVID may be something very akin to the flu in that it’s not going to go away and it could be a persistent threat and obviously highly contagious, we want to make sure that we’re able to take any measures necessary to protect patients in our facilities, and that’s why we would like to see that exception,” stated Burchfield.
Senator Joey Hensley asked if those state-owned facilities honored the religious exemption for employees who did not want to get the mandatory annual flu shot, and Burchfield acknowledged that they did comply with the federal legislation regarding religious exemptions.
Burchfield then specifically requested that the language of the bill be altered to specifically say that state owned hospitals and mental health facilities would be excluded from the definition of “government entities”.
Following Burchfield’s appeal, Senator Bo Watson made a motion that the bill be pushed forward for a week to address the wording of the legislation. The motion was seconded by Senator Ed Jackson.
Watson stated, “As one who works in a hospital virtually every day on the days when I’m not here, we need to get this right, so I would ask the committee to move this one week for us to work on an amendment to get this language right.”
2nd Vice Chairman Shane Reeves then called for a voice vote. When there were no objections, he noted that the bill would be rolled one week.
The bill’s House companion failed in the House Health Subcommittee. Discussion on the Senate bill will take place on March 31.
This delay allows additional time for individuals to contact committee members to support this bill.
To Support this Bill, Call And Email the Committee.
Chairman Rusty Crowe (615) 741-2468 – email@example.com
Sen. Ferrell Haile (615) 741-1999 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Shane Reeves (615) 741-1066 – email@example.com
Sen. Joey Hensley (615) 741-3100 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Ed Jackson (615) 741-1810 – email@example.com
Sen. Becky Massey (615) 741-1648 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Art Swann (615) 741-0981 – email@example.com
Sen. Bo Watson (615) 741-3227 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Jeff Yarbro (615) 741-3291 – email@example.com