FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – Illinois lawmakers are poised to take up the first changes to state law concerning COVID-19 and vaccine mandates.

A House amendment to Senate Bill 1169 says it’s not a violation of The Health Care Right of Conscience Act to require COVID-19 vaccines and allows someone to be terminated for such a reason.

Some have argued in court and elsewhere that the decades-old HCRCA is a reason why people cannot be discriminated against for not disclosing their vaccine status or submitting to weekly tests.

The HCRCA protects people from discrimination in their public or private sector job for refusing a medical procedure to which they have a conscientious objection.

“It shall be unlawful for any public or private employer ... to impose any burdens in terms or conditions of employment on, or to otherwise discriminate against … on account of the applicant's refusal to receive, obtain, accept, perform, counsel, suggest, recommend, refer, assist or participate in any way in any forms of health care services contrary to his or her conscience,” part of the HCRCA states.

The proposed change found in House Amendment 2 to SB1169 adds to the law that it is not a violation of the HCRCA to require “any measures” to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 “or any pathogens that result in COVID-19.”

“It is not a violation of this Act to enforce such measures or requirements, including by terminating employment or excluding individuals from a school, a place of employment, or public or private premises in response to noncompliance,” the amendment says.

A hearing is expected Tuesday at the statehouse.

Groups like the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police have said for weeks they oppose any move to the act they say has the strongest protections in the country for workers’ rights.

“The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police remains strongly opposed to any changes to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act that would diminish any individual's right to their religious liberties,” ILFOP President Chris Southwood said in a statement Monday.

“In America, one group can't force another to have certain beliefs or dictate how they should feel,” Southwood said. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees that the government cannot impose the beliefs of one segment of the population onto another, no matter how well-intentioned the government claims its actions to be.”

“We are confident that any attempt to usurp these religious freedom rights will be found unconstitutional by the courts,” Southwood said. “And we fully intend to make every Illinois legislator's constituents aware of how they voted on this basic right we all have as Americans.”

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.