AG says IU’s COVID-19 vaccine order violates new state law

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The state attorney general said Wednesday afternoon that Indiana University’s decision to require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations from all students and employees is illegal under a new state law banning state or local governments from issuing or requiring vaccine passports.

His advisory opinion, however, contradicts a top Republican legislative leader who said he didn’t believe the law adopted last month applied to public universities or K-12 schools.

The opinion from Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office, which is not binding, maintains that Indiana’s public universities are created by state law and that court rulings have determined them to be “arms of the state.” The opinion said the new law applies to universities since the legislature didn’t exempt them.

The attorney general’s opinion comes a day after 19 Republican legislators sent a protest letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb asking him to prohibit any state university from mandating vaccines that don’t have full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

IU officials announced Friday that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for the fall semester on all of its campuses.

The university said its order is aimed at prioritizing the safety of employees and the some 90,000 students on its seven campuses while providing a more typical college experience, with full attendance at in-person classes, athletic and other events.

“The policy mandating the vaccine reiterates that we are not requiring a vaccine ‘passport,’ with everyone vaccinated, that would be unnecessary,” an IU statement said.

Republican legislators last month pushed through the ban on COVID-19 vaccine passports, a move that came as conservatives across the country portray them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices.

Rokita emphasized that objection in a statement about the opinion.

“Indiana University’s policy clearly runs afoul of state law—and the fundamental liberties and freedoms this legislation was designed to protect,” Rokita said.

The new law states that “the state or a local unit may not issue or require an immunization passport.”

It makes no specific mentions of educational institutions, and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said on the day it was approved that he didn’t believe it applied to public universities or K-12 schools.

“I looked at it as state, county, local governments,” Bray said.

Bray’s office didn’t immediately comment Wednesday on Rokita’s opinion. However, Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said he’s disappointed in IU’s decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I appreciate and agree with the attorney general’s opinion on this topic, and I hope Indiana University reverses course and supports the rights of students, faculty and staff to choose whether or not they receive the vaccine,” Huston said in a statement. “In addition, I believe IU should implement a more broad exemption process as provided with other immunizations.”

The attorney general’s opinion said the state universities may require COVID-19 vaccinations but can’t force students or employees to provide proof of immunizations.

It distinguished between IU’s policy and that of Purdue University, which plans to require students and employees to either provide proof of vaccination for the fall semester or participate in frequent COVID-19 testing.

“Students have the choice whether to vaccinate or be tested regularly; even if they are vaccinated, they can be tested if they do not want to show proof of vaccination,” the opinion said. “Purdue seems to be using a procedural loophole by not technically requiring the vaccinated student to produce the immunization record.”

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25 thoughts on “AG says IU’s COVID-19 vaccine order violates new state law

  1. This is the same man who supported the overturning of the 2020 election. Might as well dabble in some more Republican misinformation yeah?

    1. It’s a larger issue of once you set a precedent to erode personal freedoms, then where does it stop. Think about how private your medical information is required to be, but for this virus were going to suspend all of that in the name of public safety. That’s a direction I do not want to go in, because it will never stop with this one event.

    2. Jeff A. is correct, Nate. Pay attention to The Big Picture, will you?

      And I’m not too sure about Rokita wanting to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. He might like to validate it, though, and you should want it validated, too. But those who did the dirty work to get Biden “elected” will always resist legitimate investigations of the painfully-obvious voter fraud that put that dementia-addled, clapped-out old career politician in office to further destroy YOUR freedom as well as mine and Jeff’s…and everyone else’s.

    3. Bob P. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud over the election other than poor whiny loser Trump throwing his temper tantrum because he lost. Ironic that Trump is the one who cheated with his lies and extortion of Ukraine by trying to dig up dirt on Biden. And if you think Biden is dementia-addled look at doped up mentally incompetent, pathological liar evil corrupt Trump.

      I’m no Democrat supporter. but the GOP has turned into a brain-washed cult supporting the sick evil Trump. If Trump is so great, why does he lie all the time?

    4. Jeff A., colleges require vaccinations for other communicable diseases prior to enrollment and have for decades. This is not a new thing. So try again…

  2. Isn’t it the right of the students and staff to feel safe when attending school? The mandate is for public health, not personal “entitlements”. There are plenty of students and staff willing to comply. The others can choose a private school with a different agenda. I believe most schools will follow suits. Remember, IU was not the first to announce the mandate.

    1. Don’t quit your day job just yet if you’re jonesing for a stand-up comedian gig, Nick B.

  3. Agree with David G. Students and staff have the right to feel safe when attending school. This is a mandate about public safety, not personal “entitlements.” Majority of people understand this and want to comply. Most want to ensure the “whole” are safe.

    I’m embarrassed for what’s happened in my Republican Party. The entire Trump, non-masking, invasion of personal freedoms, slippery slope of what else will they take away from us “act” is shameful, and part of the reason we’ve ended up in the situation we are in. Pathetic.

    1. …not to mention Jews firing lasers from space, pedeophile rings and dead Venezeulan presidents creating ballots….also shameful.

    2. Jolf: it’s not unexpected – Donald spent four years in a position of [near] absolute power after living a severely corrupt life. Whether you want to cite Lord Acton or Orwell, his state of mind was predictable. The upside is the 22nd Amendment. The downside is he’s got a few more years to plot.

  4. If there is a true legal challenge to IU’s vaccination policy, it could set a precedent for all universities. Not just COVID but all vaccinations! How would this impact international students that are required to be vaccinated for tuberculosis?

  5. This is not about personal freedom; it is about public health. Am I the only one who is old enough to have a smallpox vaccination scar? Smallpox is now gone; let’s do the same with Covid?

    1. Covid-19 is going to remain a part of us for a long time…especially those in a state of denial and won’t get vaccinated despite their hero Trump having received his shots in January.

    1. That’s fine once you have a proven vaccine, but on these were doing the proving after the fact. No matter what you think these vaccines were rushed to market. I had one and had a serious problem with it so yes, I would like them to take a little more time before putting this into the category of the other ones you mention with a long history of success. These are great vaccines, but not everyone should take them and that will take time to sort out

  6. Notice Rokita only issued a press release. It sounds good. It plays to his base. He is hoping his base is too ignorant to fact check him.

    If he really thought it was issue, he would be filing in court, which like almost all of the partisan issues he has supported, he is not.

    The real headline should be “AG issues another partisan propaganda statement”.

  7. From the IN.GOV AG page: The Office of the Indiana Attorney General represents the state in cases involving the state’s interest, provides legal defense to state officials or agencies in court, and gives formal legal advisory opinions on constitutional or legal questions to state officials.

    Who asked for the AG’s opinion? The key words for this article: “….The opinion from Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office, which is not binding,…..”

    I didn’t vote for Rokita as Sec of State, Rep IN-4, Senate primary nor as AG (if possible, I would have voted against him for the AMTRAK Directors position). Spoiler alert, I won’t vote for him when he runs for Star Fleet Commander

  8. I was forced by my Indiana public school to get the Swine Flu vaccine in 2009, which was also approved via Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. Why is this any different now? Oh yeah, Fox News became anti-vax because that’s what the GOP wants. They’re literally sacrificing the lives of their constituents to try to win in 2022. That’s going to backfire when they’re getting sick from Covid-19 this fall.

  9. Why is Rokita trying to force a “no vax” mandate on our children? Does he want them dead?

    I mean the talking points write themselves