Marion Courthouse (copy)

The newly renovated Marion County Courthouse is pictured Friday, Feb. 12.

JEFFERSON — Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur and County Sheriff David Capps collectively announced on Wednesday their decision to not enforce any COVID-19 vaccine mandates put upon the staff or residents of the county.

The announcement comes the same day President Joe Biden met with several executives from the nation’s largest companies, to discuss his new COVID-19 vaccine mandate that he announced last week. Telling unvaccinated Americans, according to the New York Post, “Your refusal has cost us all,” President Biden last Thursday mandated that two-thirds of all U.S. workers get COVID-19 shots, with far-reaching new rules for businesses and federal workers as cases surge.

Judge LaFleur said the president’s announcement had some of his employees worried about their freedom being infringed.

“We had a few employees asking; they were worried that they had to take this vaccine and for whatever reason they didn’t want to,” LaFleur said. “Whether it was their personal belief, or (whatever), it’s not our business.

“We just wanted to ensure people in Marion County that, for us, that’s unacceptable,” he said of the president’s efforts to push a COVID-19 mandate.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the freedoms and privacies on medical issues to individual persons, and I think that that’s an important thing that everything that goes into law, goes through the proper processes. That’s the reason that we have three powers of government — executive, legislative and judicial. Congress makes the laws — presidents don’t make any, and shouldn’t be making any,” Judge LaFleur told the News Messenger when asked if the president’s announcement influenced the county’s decision.

“When you start mandating something, especially something as private as a medical issue and you pit people against each other, vaccinated against unvaccinated and start making the unvaccinated (feel like) second class citizens, that’s not right,” said LaFleur.

He said the country has more problems beyond vaccinations to tackle.

“What’s next? What else can the federal government do?” said LaFleur. “People are tired; they’re exhausted with it. They want to go back to whatever normal life they can.”

The county judge said it’s a certainty that COVID-19 is out there, but believes it should be the choice of the individual to get vaccinated. LaFleur suspects a host of state attorneys general will be falling lawsuits in the future, as a result “because that’s just not the way the system was set up,” he said.

The county judge said he’s not for or against the vaccine, but believes, again, it should be a personal decision. He said the county has actually made the vaccine available numerous times, through partnerships, to those interested.

“I wanted to make sure it was readily available for the citizens that wanted it,” said LaFleur. “And when citizens stopped coming, we stopped providing the vaccines.”

The county judge and the sheriff noted that as a rural county, they had a small trickle of vaccines coming into Marion County at the very beginning.

Nevertheless, “we brought in more vaccines per capita than any other county of our size,” they said.

In fact, Marion County was one of five selected in January for the newly launched State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program, created to increase COVID-19 vaccination efforts in underserved areas around the state, he pointed out.

“This was a team effort by the Commissioners Court and our state partners with Governor Greg Abbott and his staff, State Representative Chris Paddie, DSHS (Department of State Health Services), and Texas Department of Emergency Management,” LaFLeur and Capps stated. “We thank them for the assistance they provided to Marion County.”

The county officials said over the last year-and-a-half, the county, as a whole, has together experienced unprecedented times with the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on county government never before experienced,” the county officials aid. “We have been pushed to the brink and we are still standing and going strong.”

LaFleur and Sheriff Capps further noted that when they stepped into office, they took an oath to God to uphold the Constitution of the state and of the nation.

“We made a promise to uphold liberty at any cost,” the county officials said in their statement. “With that responsibility, we have made the decision that you will not be required by Marion County to adhere to any vaccine mandate or any other mandate that would infringe on your individual liberties and freedoms.

“We want to be very clear; this is not taking a stance being for or against a vaccine, but rather a stance on government’s authority to mandate it,” they stressed. “It is our sworn duty to assure you of your freedom and rights, including a right to medical privacy and freedom.”

They urge residents with questions to contact them directly.

Additionally, “if you haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine and want one, please call or text us and we will find you one,” they added.

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