Authored by Isabel Van Brugen via the Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order this week to “protect” state employees against President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate by allowing them to easily obtain medical and religious exemptions.
“South Dakota is fighting back against the heavy hand of @JoeBiden & his Administration,” the Republican governor announced on Twitter. “Today I signed an Executive Order to protect state employees, & those w/ federal contracts who are being forced to get vaccinated against their wishes. The order protects medical & religious exemptions for these workers.”
“Additionally, I am working w/ legislators on addressing other areas. I have always said the decision to get vaccinated should be a personal choice-not a mandate from Joe Biden, Fauci or your boss,” she added.
Noem said the move was necessary to ensure that employees aren’t forced to get COVID-19 vaccinations under Biden’s initiative, which covers not only people directly paid by federal contracts but also anyone who works to support them.
State lawmakers have said South Dakotans are being denied medical and religious exemptions from feds and have called for a special session to stop it.
Noem spokesman Jordan Overturf said Noem’s exemptions are “explicit and offer a clear path” for state workers to opt-out of the shots.
In a press release from Noem’s office, the governor said that employees who wish to receive a medical exemption from the vaccine mandate need a note from a doctor stating that the COVID-19 vaccination is too risky for health reasons.
Workers who wish to be exempted for religious reasons must fill out a form from the Bureau of Human Resources that states that they “dissent and object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds, which includes moral, ethical, and philosophical beliefs or principles.”
“Due to established precedent, this Executive Order does not apply to service members with the South Dakota National Guard who must meet federal readiness responsibilities for deployment,” the release adds.
It also states that Noem will work during next year’s legislative session with South Dakota lawmakers to make these “protections” for state employees permanent, and “to extend similar health and religious liberty protections” to employees of private businesses who adopted mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.
The governor earlier criticized proposals by Republican lawmakers to ban vaccine mandates as “not conservative” because they’re telling businesses what to do and how to treat their employees. This order, spokesman Overturf said, is about upholding rights already included in the Constitution.
“She has repeatedly said private businesses should offer medical and religious exemptions for COVID vaccine mandates,” Overturf said.
Noem earlier said on Twitter that the state will “l stand up to defend freedom,” referring to the president’s vaccine mandates.
The Epoch Times has contacted the White House for comment.