Politics

Oklahoma sues over National Guard vaccine requirement

Oklahoma is suing the Biden administration over its federal coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal employees and the National Guard, the state’s Republican attorney general announced Thursday. 

“Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate ensures that many Oklahoma National Guard members will simply quit instead of getting a vaccine, a situation that will irreparably harm Oklahomans’ safety and security,” Attorney General John O’Connor said in a statement. “These patriots, along with many federal employees, who serve their country and their state are now at risk of being terminated because they do not wish to take the vaccine.”

The state of Oklahoma is asking the court to stop the enforcement of the requirement and to prevent the federal government from withholding funding from the Oklahoma National Guard over guard members’ vaccination status. Sixteen Oklahoma Air National Guard members who don’t want to get vaccinated are also plaintiffs. 

Lawyers for Oklahoma argue that the mandate violates religious liberty and due process and sets an “unconstitutional condition” for federal employees to keep their jobs. It also claims the federal government is stifling Oklahoma’s state rights. 

“The federal government is trying to disarm the state of Oklahoma from protecting itself, its territory and its citizens,” the complaint claims. 

It also takes aim at President Biden on a personal level, accusing him of being “no longer able or willing to mask his disdain for unvaccinated Americans” when he admitted that his patience with them was “wearing thin” in a recent speech. 

The suit comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s rejection of Oklahoma’s request for an exemption from the vaccine requirement for guard members. Austin, in a letter to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, said, “To maintain a healthy and ready military force capable of protecting the American people, the immediate vaccination against COVID-19 is an essential military readiness requirement for all components and units of the military, including the Oklahoma National Guard.” 

Oklahoma is one of a growing number of GOP-led states suing the Biden administration over federal vaccine requirements. Other states are suing the administration over vaccine requirements for health care workers, federal employees and employees at companies with 100 employees or more. 

The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has suspended enforcement of new rules ordering large employers to require vaccinations or regular testing after a federal appeals court reaffirmed a temporary halt to the requirement’s implementation. 

— CBS News’ Ellee Watson contributed to this report 


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