A conservative lawmaker implored Gov. Mike Parson this week to intercede, preventing the Missouri National Guard from complying with COVID-19 vaccine requirements, but the Republican chief executive appears unlikely to do so.
In a letter sent to Parson this week and provided to The Missouri Times, Sen. Mike Moon said state statute put the Missouri National Guard directly under the governor’s control. Thus, Parson should “direct the adjutant general to disregard any and all unlawful directives from the current, and future, federal administrations” regarding vaccine requirements, Moon said.
“Many Missourians have dedicated themselves to serve our state in the Missouri Guard. To threaten these men and women with a dishonorable discharge simply because they choose to exercise their religious or medical right is an inappropriate response,” Moon, who is running for U.S. Congress said.
The Missouri National Guard is following the August directive from the U.S. Defense secretary when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, Jonathan Klusmeyer, the interim director of public affairs for the Missouri National Guard, said.
“This memorandum directs the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces under [the Department of Defense] authority on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard, who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Klusmeyer said in an email to The Missouri Times.
He said exemptions could be made based on medical and religious reasons.
A spokeswoman for Parson said the Missouri National Guard’s response “summarizes the situation very well.”
The Missouri National Guard has a “dual mission,” meaning it reports to both President Joe Biden and Parson.
Parson signed an executive order in late October that said state employees could forgo the COVID-19 vaccine for medical and religious reasons. Some members of the Senate Conservative Caucus, including Moon, said then the executive order did not go far enough.
“If a person just doesn’t want to take the shot, we should honor that. I’m disappointed that the governor is not wanting to take a stand to protect men and women of Missouri who are giving of themselves to protect us,” Moon said in an interview.
Moon’s push for Parson to intercede with vaccine requirements in the Missouri National Guard comes after Oklahoma’s governor attempted to exempt members from the vaccine requirement.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent a letter to Oklahoma’s governor denying the request this week. John Kirby, a department spokesperson, has warned members of the National Guard who refuse to receive the vaccine could be “putting at jeopardy your ability to stay in the National Guard.”
COVID-19 vaccine requirements have been a point of contention for Republicans around the U.S. as well as in Missouri.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, has led the charge on multiple lawsuits challenging several of the federal mandates that cover contractors, large workforces, and health care workers. Earlier this week, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the health care worker mandate in Missouri and nine other states.
The Department of Defense has maintained it does have the authority to order all members of the military, including the National Guard, to receive the inoculation, calling it a “readiness issue.”
Moon headlined a rally at the state Capitol earlier this month to oppose mandates of any kind. He said he heard from members of the Missouri National Guard who were worried they would be dishonorably discharged because of their opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine.
As pre-filing gets underway Wednesday, Moon said he will introduce legislation that would allow any Missourian to oppose the vaccine for any reason without any repercussion.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn was the editor in chief of The Missouri Times from 2020-2022. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.