Opinion: Governor Inslee should not require Washington businesses to enforce vaccination status rules

Mark Harmsworth, of the Washington Policy Center, believes the governor has placed businesses and nonprofit organizations such as churches in a difficult position

Mark Harmsworth, of the Washington Policy Center, believes Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has placed businesses and nonprofit organizations such as churches in a difficult position.
Mark Harmsworth, of the Washington Policy Center, believes Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has placed businesses and nonprofit organizations such as churches in a difficult position.

This opinion piece was produced and first published by the Washington Policy Center. It is published here with the permission of and full attribution to the Washington Policy Center.

Mark Harmsworth
Washington Policy Center 

Mark Harmsworth
Mark Harmsworth

In a press conference last Thursday, Governor Jay Inslee announced the relaxation by June 30th of the lockdown restrictions he has imposed and an immediate removal of mask mandates for Washington residents who are fully vaccinated.

The governor dropping his hardline stance is a welcome step towards re-opening the Washington economy and moving past the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Gov. Inslee said, “Washington will fully adopt masking guidance issued by the CDC earlier today.”  He stressed that this guidance is for fully vaccinated people only.  

Inslee’s new rules, however, place businesses and nonprofit organizations such as churches in a difficult position. By discriminating against people who may not be vaccinated for medical, religious or personal reasons, the state is promoting a de-facto “vaccine passport,” enforced by Washington business.

This would have a similar harmful effect as the contact tracing concept that was tried by the state in early 2020. Contract tracing was highly unpopular, failed to gain traction and was ultimately abandoned.

The ability for Washington residents to engage in commerce unhindered is guaranteed under the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It states,

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Certainly, a requirement that a business determine the vaccination status for every customer it interacts with, and subsequently require masks for some and not others, abridges the rights of Washington residents and the businesses owners themselves.

This is not only a moral affront; it is an unnecessary overreach by the state. Requiring private Washington businesses to determine a customer’s medical status based on government guidance is outrageous. Businesses should determine what they want to require in their own establishment.

The safety of Washington residents is of course important but both residents and businesses have been sensible in their approach to the COVID-19 crisis and can obviously self-regulate themselves to keep our communities safe. Small business owners will continue to do voluntarily everything they need to do to keep their guests safe.

The state should not be requiring businesses and organizations to determine customers’ medical status to enforce government rules before being allowed to conduct business with them.

Mark Harmsworth is the director for the Small Business Center at the Washington Policy Center.

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