Despite unprecedented opposition from everyday Illinoisans who urged the General Assembly not to make exceptions within the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA) for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, Gov. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1169 into law on Nov. 8.
The HCRCA has been on the books for decades, and provides vital protections to Illinoisans. It prohibits any form of discrimination against individuals who refuse to take part in any healthcare service or procedure that is contrary to a person’s religious beliefs, morals, or convictions. But when Gov. Pritzker unilaterally put vaccine mandates in place for many Illinois businesses and fields, Illinoisans pointed to protections guaranteed in the HCRCA and pushed back against the mandate. It was at this point, when the courts were poised to agree with plaintiffs challenging the Governor’s authority on the issue, that Pritzker decided to create a carve-out within the HCRCA relative to COVID-19.
Senator Sue Rezin voted against SB 1169 and believes the issue is bigger than vaccines. She believes the legislation sets a dangerous precedent that says it’s OK to discriminate against or even fire someone who stands firm in their religious or personal convictions.
As the carve-out to the HCRCA moved through Springfield’s committee process, legislators witnessed an unprecedented level of opposition from Illinoisans. Overall, close to 85,000 witness slips were filed in opposition to the legislation, with one amendment receiving more than 54,000 opposing witness slips. Democrats ignored these residents, and together with the Governor instead said it is OK for people to be discriminated against in the workplace and even to lose their jobs if they do not submit to the heavy hand of state government.
As written and signed by Gov. Pritzker, the COVID-19 carve-out takes effect on June 1, 2022.