Nov 24, 2021 6:24 PM

Schmidt: 'No discretionary judgment call' on religious exemptions

Posted Nov 24, 2021 6:24 PM
Kansas AG Derek Schmidt
Kansas AG Derek Schmidt

By NICK GOSNELLHutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt clarified Wednesday that those who have a religious reason not to be vaccinated don't have to explain why in Kansas.

"There have been some employers, particularly some public sector employers that have required employees to complete a questionnaire providing details about their religious faith and maybe even supporting materials about the nature of the faith and why it speaks to the issue of vaccine mandates," Schmidt said. "That is now illegal in Kansas. It was always suspect, as a matter of religious freedom, but now state law specifically prohibits employers from inquiring about the sincerity of an employee's claim of a religious exemption from vaccine mandates."

There's now no reason for an employer to keep any kind of records about an employee's faith beyond the paperwork required to prove the request was made.

"Any time there is a claim for a public benefit that involves an assertion of religious faith, it presents the question of how to determine whether the faith is genuine," Schmidt said. "In this case, the legislature has made crystal clear that there is to be no discretionary judgment call by employers, whether public or private. It's enough that the employee makes the assertion. That assertion then has to be respected."

This action by the legislature was pushback against the many vaccine mandate fronts on which the federal government has asserted authority.

"This very muddled situation that the Biden administration has caused with its multifaceted, inconsistent vaccine mandates, has to allow for accommodation of medical exemptions and accomodation of religious exemptions. The procedures for both of those being claimed have to be simple and straightforward. Employers are relieved from being in the business of having to pass judgment on an employee's religious faith or their medical condition. That's now clearly the work of a healthcare provider, a doctor, not of the employer. I think this provides clarity to everybody."

Under the new law, employees aggrieved by an employer’s violation of the law may file a complaint with the Kansas Department of Labor.