Deputies, other employees sue Charleston County over vaccine mandate

Source: Live 5
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:39 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 12:42 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Twenty-five Charleston County employees and vendors, including 14 deputies, have filed a lawsuit over a county mandate requiring vaccination against COVID-19.

Court documents filed Thursday afternoon allege the county’s vaccine mandate violates the United States and South Carolina Constitutions, the 14th Amendment and deprives the plaintiffs of their rights, including the right to refuse medical treatment.

Charleston County Council passed a vaccine mandate on Sept. 2 which requires all county employees, volunteers and interns to be vaccinated by Nov. 7 to maintain their employment.

“Plaintiffs seek an order declaring the mandate as unenforceable because it conflicts with the South Carolina Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, violates the South Carolina’s Home Rule Act, violates DHEC’s General Supervision of Vaccination, Screening, and Immunization, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of the Plaintiffs, violates Substantive Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process, and deprives plaintiffs of their fundamental right to refuse medical treatment,” the suit states.

They also allege the mandate violates the plaintiffs’ protected right to expressive speech and expressive conduct under the state Constitution and the Home Rule Act.

“Plaintiffs’ right to control their own medical destinies is both expressive speech in the form of opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine, and expressive conduct in opposition to the vaccine mandate,” the documents state.

The Home Rule Act allows a county to declare a state of emergency under a need to preserve the “health, peace order and good government of its citizens,” but the suit argues the Home Rule doctrine does not allow local governments to “countermand state law or the South Carolina Constitution.”

As to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, the suit alleges the mandate violates the plaintiffs’ rights to due process.

“A forceable injection into a nonconsenting person’s body represents a substantial interference with that person’s liberty,” court documents state.

The suit argues that neither the state, Gov. Henry McMaster, nor the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control has mandated vaccines, adding that McMaster, in a May 11 Executive Order, stated that the state “will not mandate that South Carolinians receive” COVID-19 vaccines.

Charleston County spokesperson Kelsey Barlow said Charleston County government does not comment on pending litigation.

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