JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Nationwide, questions about the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine passport are surfacing, but Tennessee leadership Tuesday showed their opposition to such a mandate.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Tuesday morning took to social media to oppose any kind of legislation calling for a vaccine passport mandate.
Tennessee State Representative Jeremy Faison (R – 11th) is the state House Republican Caucus Chairman, he told News Channel 11 that one way or another, the General Assembly would not allow such a mandate to pass.
“Even though we’re far enough in the legislation that we can’t file another bill, there’s still several bills out there that we can work this way, so whether we fix this legislatively or executively, it’s the right thing to do, and I think you’re going to see us do it,” Faison explained.
Faison said he heard from citizens weeks prior that they were concerned about any mandates forcing the COVID-19 vaccine on citizens or requiring proof of the vaccine to travel freely.
“I heard several weeks ago people start talking about ‘well, you might need a vaccine passport to get in and out of states,’ soon as I heard that I thought ‘this is nuts, this is crazy,” he added.
Faison listed a few reasons why he thinks Tennesseans would not seek a vaccine passport mandate.
“How about people who would potentially have, they react to that, to the vaccine? How about if they had a religious reason that they shouldn’t take the vaccine? One of the most precious things that we have in America is the right to our conscience, and when you force somebody to take a shot, put a chemical in their body against their own conscience to be able to move around and have a ‘passport,’ if you will – to be able to move around and operate and live and work, something’s fundamentally wrong with that,” he said.
The White House Tuesday also voiced opposition to a federal mandate.
“The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing.
Faison said even though the Biden Administration seems to be agreeing with him on the vaccine passport mandate, he still does not find the Presidency “trustworthy.”
“If that’s truly what the president and Vice President Kamala Harris believe, then bravo. You’ve got it right this time. Like I said, I’m not trusting them 100% right now, but if that’s truly what they’re signaling, if that’s truly what they believe – that we shouldn’t have any sort of vaccine passport – bravo to them, they got something right, and I would say that even a broken clock is right twice a day,” he said.
But Lincoln Memorial University Constitutional Law Professor Stewart Harris told News Channel 11 that though all signs point to it not happening, a vaccine passport could legally be implemented.
Though not implementing it because it might impede on individual liberties is not a valid enough argument to Harris.
“I would like to drive about 100 mph on interstate highways if I could, and I think I would probably safely because I’d only do it when there aren’t other cars around, but the law says I can’t do that because maybe I’ll smash into a minivan full of children, so this liberty argument is not quite valid,” he argued.
He said the power of a sovereign state, like Tennessee, to protect the public health is a broad power, and could legally allow any type of public health safety measure be mandated.
“If the State of Tennessee wanted to impose a so-called COVID passport requirement, it could do so,” Harris explained. “Similarly, the national government could do so if it wished, probably pursuant to the Commerce Power.”
Either way, Faison told News Channel 11 that whether it will take amending legislation already on the books or by executive order, this vaccine passport ban could happen within the next two weeks.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines stating that unless citizens are fully vaccinated, travel should be delayed.