Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker on Monday signed a COVID-19 amendment into law that bars employees from using moral beliefs as reason to be exempted from vaccine mandates in the workplace.
“Masks, vaccines, and testing requirements are lifesaving measures that keep our workplaces and communities safe,” Pritzker said in a statement.
The decision relates to a preexisting Illinois law, titled the Health Care Right of Conscience Act which was adopted in 1998. The law was intended to protect physicians from repercussions for refusing to carry out procedures such as abortions because of their moral or religious beliefs.
“People and organizations hold different beliefs about whether certain health care services are morally acceptable,” the law states, adding that the public policy of Illinois state is “to respect and protect the right of conscience of all persons” for making such decisions.
Pritzker, a Democrat, said of his decision to sign the new amendment into law, “Keeping workplaces safe is a high priority, and I applaud the General Assembly for ensuring that the Health Care Right of Conscience Act is no longer wrongly used against institutions who are putting safety and science first.”
According to The Associated Press, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, had pressed Pritzker to push legislation that would explain that the 1998 law was not intended to apply to a pandemic.
Pritzker said Tuesday that the new amendment, SB 1169, would ensure the law “is no longer wrongly used against institutions who are putting safety and science first.”
The amendment is set to be enforced from June 1, 2022.
The move followed several legal challenges from employees who said they should not face repercussions for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois Democratic Rep. Robyn Gabel described the amendment to the law as a “critical action.”