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Board passes medical freedom resolution

The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors voted 4-3 on Tuesday, Sept. 12, to adopt a medical freedom resolution surrounding the mandating of medical treatment, specifically vaccination and masking, in the county. But the exact purpose of the resolution and any consequences of the motion are uncertain.

The resolution was placed on the agenda of the Board’s Sept. 12 meeting at the request of the Powhatan County Board of Supervisors (BOS).

On Aug. 23, the Powhatan BOS voted 3-2 to adopt the resolution in question, which calls upon the Virginia General Assembly to “amend the relevant statutes dealing with mandating medical treatment, and the delegation of that authority to the Executive Branch.”

The resolution opens with a quote from Article 1, Sections 1 and 16 of the U.S. Constitution, that no individual ““shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

Clauses of the resolution go on to state that “every individual enjoys the constitutional right to refuse medical treatment on the grounds that it is contrary to his or her religious belief” and that “certain actions of government officials of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States that purport to impose or threaten future imposition of mandates on Virginians regarding vaccinations and the wearing of face masks unconstitutionally impinge on the constitutional rights of the people.”

According to an article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Laura McFarland, the resolution initially failed to pass back in July after Powhatan supervisors could not agree on the nature of the resolution and what exactly it was “calling for or committing the board to do.”

McFarland reported the resolution appeared to be symbolic in nature but seemed to express supervisors’ intent to support the right of citizens to refuse vaccination on the grounds of religious liberty should it ever be mandated.

Buckingham supervisors appeared to be similarly torn Tuesday night as they considered the resolution, with District 4 Supervisor and Board Vice Chair Thomas Jordan Miles III stating he wished to table the resolution indefinitely.

District 7 Supervisor Danny Allen stated his firm support of the resolution, emphasizing his belief that it is unconstitutional to mandate that people take shots or wear masks.

A motion was made by Allen and seconded by District 1 Supervisor Dennis Davis to approve the resolution. The motion passed 4-3 with Allen, Davis, Board Chair and District 3 Supervisor Don Matthews and District 5 Supervisor Harry Bryant voting yes. Miles and District 6 Supervisor Joe Chambers voted against the resolution. District 2 Supervisor Donnie Bryan was not present at the meeting and therefore abstained from the vote.

While the resolution passed, its impact on the county, if more than just symbolic, remains unclear.

Friday, Oct. 22, Buckingham County Administrator Karl Carter said he interprets the resolution as a call for local boards to seek legislative action to clarify actions of the Executive Branch.

In September, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a vaccine mandate for federal employees as well as a future requirement that all employers with more than 100 workers require those employees to get vaccinated or comply with weekly testing.

On Friday, Carter noted at this point the county is not currently able to mandate vaccination or masking in any way beyond county employees.

When asked about how the resolution could impact things like federal mandates, Carter noted the county, like other localities, is waiting to see what the final version of Biden’s vaccine mandate will be.

“Once we get the final version passed down to us, then we will react appropriately,” he said.

Miles and Chambers did not respond to a request for comment regarding why they voted no to the resolution.

“I feel it is wrong to make anyone take a shot or wear a mask and lose their job if they don’t take the shot,” Allen noted Thursday, Oct. 21. “Mandating is a way of removing our constitutional rights. I understand that COVID-19 is a real virus, that a shot and a mask are there for anyone to use or take without being forced. Some people have religious reasons, and some have medical reasons for not taking shots, so they can take them at their own discretion.”