Oregon’s governor Kate Brown is being sued by a coalition of firefighters and police officers over her new mandate which will force them to have a COVID vaccine.
The lawsuit was filed by the Oregon Fraternal Order of Police union, troopers across the state, and Kingsley Firefighters Association at Jefferson County Circuit Court Friday.
They say the vaccine edict, announced in August, breaks existing Oregon laws, and that it makes no provision for people who seek religious exemptions to the rule.
The lawsuit asks the judge who will oversee it to declare Brown’s order ‘unenforceable,’ with a date yet to be set for a first hearing.
Oregon State Trooper Zachary Cowing, 29, has already been placed on leave over a widely-shared video which saw him condemn Brown’s ban as unconstitutional.
Speaking on Instagram, he said: ‘I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, to protect the freedom of the people who pay my salary. I do not work for my governor but for them.’
It is unclear if Cowing is one of the people suing Brown, but he said that the governor ‘does not have free reign to impose medical decisions upon us.’
He continued: ‘I have personal and religious reasons as to why I will not take the vaccine, as well as the freedom to choose not to.’
Oregon State Trooper Zachary Cowing has been suspended after sharing a clip of himself at work and in his cruiser vowing to defy Governor Kate Brown’s vaccine mandate for cops
Cowing, an eight year veteran who is based in Bend, added: ‘I’ll likely get fired over this video, but I’m nonetheless exercising my First Amendment right to speak freely.’
The clip was uploaded to an Instagram account called Thinblueline_patriot last week, and was recorded by Cowing while in his patrol car and wearing uniform.
Oregon State Police has refused to comment, but Cowing’s lawyer Dan Thenell, from the Fraternal Order of Police, said his client expected to be fired.
Thenell added: ‘He knew what he was doing, and feels very strongly about this. He is aware of the possible ramifications.’
Brown, pictured, said first responders must be fully-vaccinated by October 18. She is now being sued over the edict
The lawyer added that Cowing was not anti-vaccine, but objected to being forced to have it.
Thenell continued: ‘He does not discount the toll that this has taken on people, including some close to him.
‘He has many friends who have taken the vaccine and supports their choice to do so.’
Cowing spoke out after Brown said state workers including first responders and medical workers had to be fully-vaccinated by October 18. Oregon teachers also face a similar edict.
It is unclear how many of those affected have yet to receive their shots, with officials saying they expect this to become clear as the deadline approaches.
Explaining the mandate, Brown’s spokesperson Liz Merah insisted forcing people to get the jabs was ‘an important tool’ in fighting the virus.
She told The Oregonian: ‘The vast majority of Oregonians hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
‘People are dying right now when we have safe, effective, and free vaccines readily available. The Governor is responding to a public health crisis.’
Brown has refused to comment on the pending lawsuit, which comes amid a record spike in COVID cases in Oregon.
The Pacific Northwest state has seen cases rise as high as 2,400 a day in recent weeks, by far the highest total since the pandemic hit in early 2020.
Deaths are climbing as well, with the seven day average fatality rate of 22 sitting just below the all-time high of 28 recorded during winter 2020.
Last month, Brown became the first – and so far only – US governor to reimpose mask mandates for public outdoor spaces, even for vaccinated people.
She said the rule applied in areas where it was impossible to socially distance.