Connell man sues Gov. Inslee to halt vaccine enforcement
Last updated 9/23/2021 at 11:46am
CONNELL – A local man has initiated a lawsuit against Gov. Jay Inslee and state Department of Corrections Secretary Cheryl Strange over the Wuhan coronavirus vaccination mandate.
Jeffrey Johnson, a corrections officer at Coyote Ridge Correctional Center, filed Sept. 10 in Franklin County Superior Court seeking relief from the governor’s order requiring any state employee to be “fully vaccinated” by Oct. 18 or lose their job.
The lawsuit is Jeffrey Johnson v. Jay Inslee and Cheryl Strange, case No. 21 250510 11. Attorney Simon Peter Serrano of the Silent Majority Foundation is representing the plaintiff.
Johnson is seeking to halt the enforcement of the governor’s Aug. 9 vaccination mandate, Proclamation 21.14 . The edict requires all state employees and volunteers – including prison workers, public school employees and coaches, university workers, state agency staff and others, such as 4-H volunteers – to be “fully vaccinated,” be granted a medical or religious exemption or lose their job.
The lawsuit claims the gubernatorial mandate violates the separation of powers principle of the state and federal constitutions, and that Gov. Inslee lacks the authority to deny employment based on health care decisions or private religious concerns.
The lawsuit further alleges the order violates the right of individuals to make their own health care decisions, due process required under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Articles 11 and 12 of the state Constitution, and treats employees unequally.
According to the lawsuit, the governor’s edict discriminates on the basis of health and religion.
While the governor said medical and religious exemptions would be allowed, the lawsuit alleges religious exemptions are being scrutinized more harshly.
The lawsuit includes an exhibit showing email correspondence from Governor’s Office attorney Kathryn Leathers to others in state government suggesting agencies would allow medical exemptions “for sure,” but would allow religious exemptions “if we have to” and “as narrow as possible.”
Court documents show Johnson applied for a religious exemption, which after multiple correspondence, was finally approved.
But in being exempted Johnson is not able to keep his current job, but could ask for reassignment, court records show, noting Coyote Ridge had “no other accommodations” available for his position.