By Dan Spalding
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has joined a growing chorus of those opposed to Indiana University’s mandate that all students and staff be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Indiana University announced on Thursday that it plans to review a new coronavirus vaccination requirement after multiple state officials condemned the move, according to a report that appeared on thehill.com.
Rokita on Wednesday issued a public opinion concerning the legality of COVID-19 vaccination policies recently announced by Indiana and Purdue Universities.
“This session, members of the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation to codify in law a prohibition on COVID-19 vaccine passports, preventing public institutions from mandating proof of vaccination as a condition for receiving services or employment,” Rokita said. “Indiana University’s policy clearly runs afoul of state law—and the fundamental liberties and freedoms this legislation was designed to protect.”
Rokita weighed in on the issue in response to a request from State Representative Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville) and State Senator Andy Zay (R-Huntington).
Rokita wrote that House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1405 expressly prohibits state or local units from issuing or requiring proof of immunization status. Indiana law and numerous cases have held public universities to be “arms of the state,” and therefore required to abide by the mandates set out in this new law.
“Indiana University unquestionably violates HEA 1405 by requiring its students, faculty, and staff to show proof of immunization as a condition of continued attendance or employment,” Rokita said in the statement.
Attorney General Rokita notes that while HEA 1405 prohibits public universities from requiring proof of the COVID-19 vaccine, it does not prohibit them from requiring the vaccination itself. In its current form, Purdue University’s COVID-19 vaccination policy does not appear to violate HEA 1405. Based on the information available, Purdue will require vaccination only for certain optional activities – no different than the guidelines universities have implemented for certain groups, like athletic teams, since the onset of the pandemic.
Earlier this week, a group of Republican lawmakers, including State Rep. Curt Nisly of Milford, asked Gov. Eric Holcomb to step in to block the University’s requirement.
Thirty-five state lawmakers also wrote to the University’s president opposing the plan.