The Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs will hold public hearings on six bills aimed at reinstating religious and philosophical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines approved under emergency use authorizations on Monday.
Supporters of the bills have dubbed the day “Medical Freedom Day.”
These bills seek to ensure access to education for all students, regardless of their vaccination status.
Rep. Gary Drinkwater (R-Milford) said he now understands the need for exemptions after hearing testimony about vaccine injuries. He added that schools should not withhold education from children due to their vaccination status.
Drinkwater’s bill would restore vaccine mandate exemptions that were a part of Maine’s laws until they were changed in 2019. It would also restore mandate exemptions for certain health care facilities.
Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo) has proposed a bill to prohibit certain postsecondary educational institutions from requiring students to be immunized with a vaccine approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization. That would include the mRNA-based products Moderna, Pfizer, and other pharmaceutical giants have marketed as COVID-19 vaccines.
She highlighted the lack of legal recourse for those who may be injured or die due to such vaccines.
Rep. Barbara Bagshaw’s (R-Windham) bill, LD 198, provides religious or philosophical exemptions for students in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools, as well as employees of nursery schools and certain health care facilities.
Rep. David Boyer (R-Poland) criticized the current situation where online and private schools are subject to vaccine mandates.
“Online and private schools should not be subject to vaccines mandates,” Boyer said.
Boyer pointed out that children can attend church and Sunday school together but are barred from attending private schools the next day, calling the situation “ridiculous” and unsupported by science.
The vaccine related bills that will have hearings on Monday are as follows:
- LD 51 – “An Act to Restore Religious and Philosophical Exemptions to Immunization Requirements”– Rep. Gary Drinkwater (R-Milford)
- LD 869 – “An Act to Protect Education Access by Providing a Mandate for Schoolchildren for a COVID-19 Vaccine or a Vaccine Under an Emergency Use Authorization” – Sen. Lisa Keim (Oxford)
- LD 198 – “An Act to Restore Religious and Philosophical Exemptions Regarding Immunization Requirements” – Rep. Barbara Bagshaw (R-Windham)
- LD 1148 – “An Act to Prohibit COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for Students Enrolled in Public Institutions of Learning” – Sen. Eric Brakey (Androscoggin)
- LD 1209 – “ An Act to Reinstate the Religious and Philosophical Vaccine Exemptions for Private Schools and Virtual Public Charter Schools” Rep. David Boyer (R-Poland)
- LD 1228 – “An Act to Prohibit Certain Higher Education Institutions from Requiring Vaccines Approved Under Emergency Use Authorization for Admission or Attendance” – Rep. Katrina Smith (R-Palermo)
Although the legislature adjourned Thursday night as part of a parliamentary gimmick related to the budget, Democrats also passed a special order allowing committee business to proceed an interrupted.
The public hearings on Medical Freedom bills will take place in the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, Cross Building, Room 208, starting at 10:00 AM on Monday, April 3, 2023.
According to the press release from the House GOP, a large crowd of supporters is expected to rally between the State House and the Cross Building at 8:00 AM before the hearings commence.
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