Election 2020 Indiana Attorney General

In this Aug. 9, 2017, file photo, former Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference outside of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

(The Center Square) – Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced he’s filed suit against the Biden Administration over its mandate all children in Head Start-funded preschools wear masks and all staff and volunteers be vaccinated.

“Hoosiers, in particular, will not passively accept the trampling of our liberties,” Rokita said in a statement. “That’s just not how we are wired. So just as with the first three mandates, we are fighting tooth and nail to protect Hoosiers’ individual rights.”

The suit was filed Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. It was led by the attorney general of the state of Louisiana, with 23 other plaintiffs including Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

It’s the fourth lawsuit Indiana has joined in challenging the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. Federal judges have halted two of the mandates pending the outcome of court cases and the third, the OSHA rule applying to all businesses with 100 or more employees, was temporarily halted but reinstated Dec. 17 by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The mandate on pre-schools was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and applies to all pre-schools that are funded by the federal Head Start program.

The mask requirement applies to children as young as 2 who attend a Head Start preschool, while the COVID-19 vaccine requirement applies to staff and volunteers.

“This mandate is absolute lunacy,” Rokita said in a statement. “Forcing masks on 2-year-olds and expecting them to be capable of complying with such an order is absurd. Unfortunately, it’s also exactly the sort of edict we’ve come to expect from leftist demagogues in places of power.”

Head Start is a federal program that focuses on school readiness and serves children from low-income families who are under the age of 5.

The website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists 285 Head Start-funded pre-school programs in Indiana. They include Early Start programs for younger children and special Head Start programs for the children of migrant workers.

In the legal complaint, Indiana and the other states say if allowed to take effect, the HHS regulation requiring masks for preschoolers and masks and COVID-19 vaccines for staff and volunteers at Head Start pre-school programs would lead to loss of staff and fewer children served.

“It forces vaccinations on staff, volunteers, and others in contact with Head Start students and forces masks on everyone age two and up,” the complaint reads. “It includes few exceptions, is projected to lead to tens of thousands of Head Start agency staff losing their jobs, and will cause programs to close or reduce capacity – achieving the very opposite result of its purported goal.”

The complaint alleges that the mandate “exceeds the executive’s statutory authority; is contrary to law; illegally bypassed notice and comment; is arbitrary and capricious; constitutes an exercise of legislative power in violation of the Nondelegation Doctrine; and violates the Congressional Review Act, the Tenth Amendment, the Anti-Commandeering doctrine, the Spending Clause, and the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1999.”

The complaint notes the Administration for Children and Families, the agency under HHS that administers Head Start, initially chose to allow Head Start programs around the country to decide whether or not to require staff to be vaccinated.

Then in early September, it says, the Biden administration “abandoned persuasion for brute force” in announcing “an unprecedented series of federal mandates, aimed at compelling most of the adult population of the United States to get a COVID-19 vaccine and at expanding mask mandates.”

Biden announced the vaccine mandate on Head Start teachers Sept. 9. Close to 300,000 Head Start teachers and other staff are covered by the mandate.

The HHS rule was issued Nov. 30, requiring vaccination for staff and volunteers and anyone else who comes in to contact with children at Head Start facilities and requiring that all children age 2 and older wear masks.

The rule includes the language “fully vaccinated” – meaning that as more doses of the vaccine are added and recommended, they will also be mandated for staff to be considered compliant with the rule.

For masks, the regulation requires that they cover the chin, mouth and nose and that they be won indoors and also outdoors in crowded settings or when people are in close contact. Children and adults can only take off their masks when eating, drinking or napping, or outdoors when there is not close contact.

The mask requirements became effective immediately, while the vaccine requirements are enforceable as of Jan. 31.