SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Republican Party is calling on Governor Spencer Cox to defy a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the Utah National Guard.
In a letter the party made public on Thursday, Salt Lake County GOP Chair Chris Null urged the governor to defy the Biden administration's mandate that guard members be vaccinated.
"Without your intervention, many Utah National Guard members will be discharged for non-compliance. As the Commander in Chief of the Utah National Guard, you have the responsibility to protect the rights, including the religious rights, of our Utah National Guard service members. Utah must retain authority over its own National Guard," Null wrote.
The county Republican party called on the governor to join counterparts across the country who have objected to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Oklahoma's governor recently challenged it. A federal judge ruled against him, noting that Oklahoma did not object to vaccine requirements for other diseases and mandates for service members date back to the Revolutionary War.
Null acknowledged Utah may lose some federal funds if it defied the mandate'
"A strong stance against President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate may result in the loss of some federal funding. However, it is no secret that most Utahns oppose using our tax dollars to force compliance. The decision to receive any vaccination should be between a patient and their doctor. We should never be apathetic toward anyone's individual rights to make their own health decisions, especially the Utah National Guard, who sacrifice to protect our freedoms," he said in the letter.
In a statement to FOX 13, the governor's office signaled he would not defy the mandate.
"The Utah National Guard has a long tradition of being ready to quickly respond to emergencies and mobilizations. Gov. Spencer Cox is in close coordination with the Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, to ensure the Utah National Guard is able to meet readiness requirements for any state or federal mission," said Jennifer Napier-Pearce, the governor's communications director. "Gov. Cox supports our state’s military leaders in this effort, including the medical readiness standards for the Utah National Guard as an important part of keeping our service members safe and ready for any challenge they are called upon to accomplish."
Members of the Utah National Guard have assisted with COVID-19 response including manning test sites and vaccination clinics. Under Gov. Gary Herbert's administration, the Utah National Guard's Major General Jefferson Burton oversaw the state's COVID-19 task force.