Governor & lawmakers look to support religious exemptions against vaccine requirements

Local News

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem has issued an executive order allowing state employees to defy President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate. This comes as a group of state lawmakers are calling for a special session to address religious and medical exemptions for people who don’t want to get vaccinated.

People all over the country are choosing between their jobs and getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Today Governor Kristi Noem issued an executive order to exempt state employees from federal vaccine mandates. But when it comes to employers requiring the vaccine, the Governor admitted there is little she can do at this time.

“I don’t have the authority to as governor to dictate to a private business, a private business is private property and if we have the government start dictating to people on private property is extends into the homes and many other areas,” said Noem.

Noem said she will work with state lawmakers to shore up exemptions.

A release sent out by seven state lawmakers says they’ve been contacted by people seeking help, so they’re calling for a special session in Pierre on November 9th.

One of the backers of the special session to address religious exemptions for people who don’t want to get vaccinated is Representative Marli Wiese who wrote, “We live in a free country and we should stand up against mandates that threaten the loss of livelihood for any person and family.”

And Senator Maggie Sutton wrote, “Religious protections and research-backed medical exemptions make sense for South Dakota workers.”

When it comes to religion, vaccination can be confusing. The most popular religious leader in the world, the Pope, is calling on Catholics to get vaccinated saying “It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines.”

However, some of his own Cardinals are rejecting the vaccines.

But, a religious exemption has more to do with your own beliefs, not the leaders of your church. The EEOC updated its guidelines two days ago, and under those guidelines someone claiming an exemption should have “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Sioux Falls attorney Tyler Haigh says the exemption has to be tied to a specific teaching or belief tied to that religion.

“A big thing is people say I don’t want to put something in my body that I don’t know what the long term effects are and that would be more of a philosophical belief as opposed to a religious belief and so to get a religious exemption it actually has to be something that is sincerely held that is related back to your religion,” said Haigh.

Haigh says a business could reject the exemption if they have a compelling reason to enforce the mandate such as a health care facility or if it creates undo hardship for the business.

You can find the EEOC guidlines for religious exemptions near the bottom of the page on this link.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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