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TUCSON, Arizona (LifeSiteNews) – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich blasted the city of Tucson Tuesday for mandating COVID shots for city employees, declaring the action “illegal” and threatening to have the treasury remove state funding from the city if lawmakers do not overturn the mandate.
Arguing that “COVID-19 vaccinations should be a choice, not a government mandate,” Brnovich, a Republican, told Fox News that “Tucson’s vaccine mandate is illegal, and the city could be held liable for attempting to force employees to take it against their beliefs.”
State lawmakers passed a bill earlier in the year, S.B. 1824, prohibiting local governments throughout Arizona from “establishing a COVID-19 vaccine passport or requiring … any person to be vaccinated for COVID-19.”
The bill also disallowed “a business to obtain proof of the COVID-19 vaccination status of any patron entering the business establishment.”
“Any law or ordinance establishing a COVID-19 vaccine passport is void and is not enforceable against any person or business located in this state,” the bill reads.
However, Tucson voted to require city employees to receive at least one COVID jab by August 24, whereas Arizona’s law does not come into effect until September 29. Tucson’s mandate required employees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or face five days of unpaid suspension.
Following Tucson’s vote, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued an executive order outlining that any “county, city, town or political subdivision official that implements a vaccine mandate contrary to the authorities outlined in this order, is in violation of A.R.S. 36-114 and 36-184 and such actions are punishable by a class 3 misdemeanor and subject to legal action by individuals for violation of their rights under Arizona law.”
Accordingly, violations could result in $500 fines and up to one month in prison. Yet the city did not rescind the vaccine requirement.
In fact, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero (D) responded to Ducey’s executive order, characterizing the ruling as “legally meaningless” and accusing the governor of engaging in “a deadly game of one-upmanship.”
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO), which has been investigating the legality of Tucson’s vaccine mandate for weeks, stated that the mandate was in violation of state law, noting that “if the City of Tucson does not rescind its policy within the next 30 days, the AGO will notify the Arizona Treasurer, who will withhold the city’s portion of state shared revenue until it comes into compliance.”
AGO officials noted that the state funding amounts to “millions of dollars.”
“Additionally, the AGO believes the City of Tucson could subject itself to potential liability claims if it were to take adverse action against an employee who relies on E.O. 2021-18 and state law to refuse the vaccine,” officials warned. “Adhering to the rule of law in Arizona is not optional. It’s everyone’s responsibility, including the city of Tucson.”
A city official from Tucson responded to Brnovich’s office, telling Fox News that the AG “needs to put away the political science book and try reading real science.”
Steve Kozachik, a Tucson city councilman, argued that since the city-wide mandate complied with directives from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there could be “nothing illegal about our local ordinance,” insisting that the requirement “is in the best interest of public health.”
Meanwhile, church leaders in Arizona remain divided on the implementation of vaccine mandates.
On August 24, Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson issued a statement instructing all priests of his diocese “not to cooperate with any individuals seeking our endorsement of an exemption from vaccine or facemask mandates based specifically upon our Catholic faith.”
The prelate claimed that “[a]ll current anti-Covid-19 vaccines may be received by the faithful without moral compromise,” based on his reading of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) 2020 “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines.”
While noting that the letter clearly acknowledges the legitimacy of refusing to accept COVID jabs based on the moral repugnance of the abortion-derived cell lines used in their development and testing, Weisenburger yet insisted that “there may well be a legitimate and compelling moral obligation for one to accept a vaccination … such as in a pandemic.”
The bishop added that the CDF’s emphasis on protecting the vulnerable shows that “we have a clear moral obligation to abide by mask mandates and social distancing” in addition to taking the shot for “the moral good of the community.”
Just a few days later, however, Weisenburger’s brother bishop Thomas Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, released his own statement August 27 in which he defended the right of Catholics to refuse COVID-19 shots, declaring that the faithful can choose to forego the jabs “in good conscience.”
Olmsted likewise wrote that those who receive the jabs “can do so in good conscience,” following “prayerful consideration” of their personal circumstances.
The bishop maintained that it is “not for us to make medical decisions for others but rather to support the right of faithful Catholics to come to a personal decision with the help of a well-formed conscience.” Therefore, Olmsted urged employers to make provisions for individuals to object to vaccine mandates on the basis of religious and moral conviction.