Bill Description: House Bill 719 would increase the legal hurdle an employer must overcome if it wants to require its workers to obtain a coronavirus vaccine.
Analyst Note: House Bill 719 is one of several bills introduced this session that would limit the scope of vaccine mandates in Idaho or forbid them altogether.
House Bill 719 is similar to House Bill 577, introduced earlier this session. House Bill 719 adds a definition of coronavirus rather than referencing it in existing code. It also adds a provision that employees can obtain relief under this law without having exhausted other legal remedies.
Over the last two years, governments at every level have engaged in a series of coordinated activities designed to coerce individuals and businesses to comply with the preferences of central planners and self-appointed experts of all stripes. Businesses have frequently been forced into threatening to dismiss employees if they do not comply with the state's ever-evolving conception of "the science." Lost in this battle have been the rights of individuals — rights of privacy, self-ownership, and self-determination. What is the remedy? To protect individual rights, legislators must act. The Legislature must ruthlessly excise all medical mandates from society, whether through governments or employers involuntarily deputized by them. Individuals must be free to determine for themselves what is proper and medically necessary. Protecting individual liberty requires recognizing the fundamental right to make one's own medical decisions free from coercion or threats of retribution.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 719 would create Section 73-405, Idaho Code, to require that "if an employee of an employer requests a religious exemption from a coronavirus vaccine requirement, such employer shall bear the burden of proof that the denial of such request is both essential to furthering a compelling interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest."
It goes on to say, "An employee whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of the provisions of subsection (2) of this section may assert such violation in a claim against the employer and may obtain appropriate relief against the employer. An employee who prevails in an action to enforce the provisions of this section shall be awarded attorney's fees and costs."
It adds that "an employee shall not be required to have exhausted other legal remedies in order to bring a claim under this subsection."
This bill takes a small step toward protecting religious liberty. It could provide more effective protection for religious liberty, however, through two adjustments. First, it should protect the right of an individual to refuse any vaccine on religious grounds, not just a coronavirus vaccine. Second, it should not provide an option for an employer to claim a "compelling interest" in coercing an employee to receive a coronavirus vaccine (or indeed, any vaccine). There can be no interest more compelling than the protection of individual liberty.
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