Hundreds attend Idaho Statehouse rally opposing vaccine mandates by businesses

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin repeated her call for the Legislature to reconvene

By: - July 15, 2021 4:43 pm
Crowd gathers at the Idaho Statehouse

Several hundred people attend a July 15, 2021, rally at the Idaho Statehouse opposing health care companies requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)

Hundreds of people attended a rally on the Idaho Statehouse steps in opposition to vaccine requirements on Thursday morning, moments after Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin repeated her call for the Legislature to reconvene. 

McGeachin, a Republican who is running for governor in 2022, requested Friday that House Speaker Scott Bedke reconvene the Idaho Legislature after Saint Alphonsus Health System, St. Luke’s Health System and Primary Health Medical Group announced they would require employees to be vaccinated by September. 

Between 22% and 28% of the health care companies’ staff have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, the Idaho Capital Sun reported.

“This idea of discriminating against and firing employees based on private and personal health decisions flies in the face of the principles of liberty and justice,” McGeachin said during a press conference Thursday morning inside the Statehouse. 

“The issue here today is not the effectiveness of the vaccine; the issue at hand is a matter of individual liberty and freedom,” McGeachin added. “Those who have made the personal medical choice not to take the vaccine deserve to have their decisions respected.”

McGeachin said she invited all 105 legislators to her press conference, but only Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, spoke. 

Meanwhile, Idaho Democrats issued a statement saying they oppose bringing the Legislature back to ban businesses from requiring employees get vaccinated. 

“Republicans are once again trying to exploit COVID to score political points against each other,” Rep. Lauren Necochea, a Boise Democrat who serves as assistant House minority leader, said in a written statement Thursday. “Meanwhile, Democrats have been doing their homework and we found that prohibiting employers from requiring vaccines is likely to be challenged in court and will likely fail.”

McGeachin said she had a letter of support from 29 legislators. 

At the end of her press conference, McGeachin invited everyone to attend a rally in opposition to vaccine mandates on the Statehouse steps. A group identifying itself as Take a Stand RN promoted the rally using a private Facebook group. The group billed the event as a rally for health care workers who oppose vaccine mandates. The private Facebook group was created July 9 and had about 2,700 members as of Thursday morning. 

The Take a Stand RN group has posted a video from Health Freedom Idaho on its website, while Health Freedom Idaho’s website refers visitors to Take a Stand RN’s Facebook group. 

Heath Freedom Idaho is a group whose members have spoken out against a wide range of vaccine requirements, before and during the coronavirus pandemic. 

McGeachin attended the rally outside on the Statehouse steps but she did not speak. Ammon Bundy, who is running against McGeachin in the May 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary, watched the rally from a park directly across the street from the Statehouse. Bundy is banned from the Statehouse after being arrested there several times over the past year and being charged with trespassing, resisting and obstructing officers.

On July 10, Bundy issued a press release saying hospital workers who don’t want the vaccine should refuse it and use medical and religious exemptions already available. He went on to criticize McGeachin, saying she has mishandled the issue. 

The government should not be in the business of forcing business to do things they don’t want to,” Bundy said in the press release.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, also attended Thursday’s rally, though she did not speak. 

A crowd opposing vaccine requirements from businesses gathers on the Idaho Statehouse steps July 15, 2021. (Photo by Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)

More than 300 people attended the 1.5 hour rally. Many cheered enthusiastically and held handmade signs adorned with messages such as “stop the medical tyranny,” “medical freedom is essential,” “bodily sovereignty is a God-given right” and “what if I have natural immunity?”

On Friday, Bedke told the Idaho Capital Sun he would deliberate over and research McGeachin’s request to reconvene. 

“This is not something that we’re going to do tomorrow morning, frankly,” Bedke said.  

The Idaho Senate adjourned for the year on May 12, but the House voted against adjourning and instead voted to take an extended recess. That leaves the door open for Bedke to attempt to reconvene the Legislature without waiting for approval of Gov. Brad Little. 

Little, who is in his first four-year term, has not said whether he will run for re-election in 2022. However, he told the Idaho Capital Sun people will not be surprised by his decision. 

The official candidate filing period does not open until February, 12 weeks before the May primary election. 

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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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