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Morrisey issues opinion about mandates, passports

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued a legal opinion Friday concluding that broad vaccine mandates and vaccine passport requirements, especially those without exceptions, may offend:

• Constitutional interests in personal medical decision-making;

• The sacred constitutional right to religious freedom; and

• Fundamental rights to assemble, vote, petition, and generally engage as a member of civil society.

Morrisey’s office undertook a close review of the legal and constitutional issues arising from vaccine mandate and vaccine passport issues, an Attorney General Office’s press release states.

“His office acknowledged some of the existing, problematic case law that weighs in against West Virginia’s liberty interests, yet then advanced legal arguments that will provide tools for West Virginians who oppose the imposition of mandates, and are seeking relief from the Legislature,” the release states.

The opinion also concludes that laws or policies whether passed by a state, county or city entity – requiring all government employees to be COVID vaccinated – would violate the state constitution as well as state and federal laws.

Morrisey’s opinion letter and recommendations to the Legislature come on the heels of a major announcement from President Joe Biden that seeks to impose a new, broad-based federal mandate on large employers and other entities. Morrisey indicated that he was already in close contact with other attorneys general offices about how states will be fighting back against the President’s proposal.

“There should be no reason for hesitation in passing a ban on vaccine mandates or passport requirements or, at a minimum, requiring religious or medical exemptions in such requirements,” Morrisey said. “President Biden has shown us the pathway of what not to do. We need to encourage and suggest, but not mandate, our way to public health.

“I will be in litigation against the Biden Administration very soon to protect West Virginians from this historic overreach.”

The 21-page letter expresses concerns that vaccine mandates or passports instituted by a private employer may violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws, especially if exceptions for religious and disability-based objections are not provided for.

Morrisey’s opinion recommends that the state Legislature at this time should preclude broad-based COVID vaccine mandates, one of several suggestions that he believes lawmakers have the authority to enact to protect individual liberty interests, while still protecting the public health.

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