South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order Wednesday allowing state employees to claim medical or religious exemptions in defiance of President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.
Noem said her order will protect citizens' "rights to medical and religious exemptions under any federal vaccine mandates."
"South Dakota is fighting back against President Biden's illegal vaccine mandates," Noem said in a release posted on the governor's website.
"Our state has many contracts with the federal government, and President Biden is attempting to use those contracts to force state employees to be vaccinated against their will."
Noem, R-S.D., added that she and state legislators have discussed making permanent these protections for state employees, and extending the protections to private employees through legislation.
Biden early last month announced his intention to impose vaccine mandates on federal employees and on companies with 100 or more employees. Unvaccinated workers would need to be tested regularly, the president said.
South Dakota residents seeking a medical exemption need a written statement from a physician stating that the COVID-19 vaccination should not be used for medical reasons.
People seeking a religious exemption will need to sign a form from the Bureau of Human Resources that will read: "I, [insert person’s full name], dissent and object to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds, which includes moral, ethical, and philosophical beliefs or principles."
Noem took to Twitter to announce her executive order.
"Today, I signed an Executive Order to protect state employees from federal COVID vaccine mandates. Watch the video here: https://fb.watch/8Vo3JK_hWE/," Noem tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Noem's order, due to established precedent, does not apply to South Dakota National Guard service members who must meet federal readiness responsibilities for deployment.
Other governors also are fighting back against vaccine mandates. Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida sued Biden, NASA, and other government agencies on Thursday over the "unlawful" COVID-19 vaccine mandates that require federal contractors to get vaccinated, and "threaten" the state's economy.
On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey, R-Ala., signed an executive order calling for state agencies not to impose penalties on businesses or individuals who do not abide by federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, on Oct. 11 issued an executive order barring all COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state by any entity, including private employers.
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