Rantz: All religious accommodations for Washington state troopers rejected, per Inslee
UPDATED with a new email confirming the original report.
For over a year, Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers successfully worked without a vaccine, using personal protective gear to avoid serious COVID outbreaks. Now they’re being denied religious accommodations from Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate.
Some WSP staff were warned in an email Thursday evening that “there is no accommodation that can be provided for the religious exemption requests.” A second email from a captain confirmed the move. The decision, which reportedly impacts public-facing positions, was made after human resources consulted with the Attorney General’s office. The email squarely blames Inslee’s office. Now, troopers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, or Inslee says they will be fired.
The WSP is now on a collision course with a staffing crisis that could cripple the entire department.
Religious exemptions denied, medical exemptions questionable
According to an email obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, a high-ranking WSP staffer “confirmed” that “there is no accommodation that can be provided for the religious exemption requests.”
“I wish I had better news on this as I know many of us have been waiting to hear back regarding accommodation requests,” according to an email to some WSP staff. “I know this is hard news to hear for many of us. I wanted to share this with you directly as soon as I found out instead of waiting for the daily bulletin to come out.”
Troopers can expect to see their religious exemption request denied in the coming days.
Update 09-03-21 at 8:32 a.m.: On Friday morning, a second email is being passed around, which was written by a WSP captain. It says the guidance was provided by state human resources from “guidance provided by the Governor’s Office.”
“At this time, it has been confirmed that for any public-facing position, there are limited accommodations available,” the email reads, and that “there is no accommodation we can provide for their religious exemption requests.”
The email continues: “I have already asked how this is possible and I’m seeking clarification on how we have been working in this Covid environment for the past 17-months utilizing the appropriate PPE, and social distancing protocols to complete our mission.”
This is intentional
According to a leaked email showing deliberations between Gov. Inslee’s office and representatives for Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the state wrote the religious exemption form to be as “narrow as possible.” It was meant to stop religious staffers from receiving accommodation. But forms provided to various state staff members warned that any exemption would be subject to the ability to provide accommodations.
Medical accommodations are still questionable at this time as well. According to the email, “the employee [seeking medical exemption] will have to take leave during that waiting period until they can come back to work fully vaccinated.”
The email says things could change, indicating perhaps this won’t be a position set in stone. For religious, public-facing staff, the hope is that their requests will be accommodated. But many are ready to be fired.
Deeply religious trooper is sticking to his convictions
Trooper Phillip Berg is just five years into his career with the WSP. He previously served in the military and felt a call to serve his community here in Washington. But he’s already being forced out over the vaccine mandate.
“The public needs to be made aware of the repercussions of what October 19 looks like if medical exemptions and religious exemptions are not granted,” Berg warned on the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, where he was speaking in his personal capacity.
Berg believes WSP will lose plenty of staff if accommodations aren’t provided. For Berg, it’s deeply personal.
“I disagree with the premise of mandate on its face, [but] I decided to put in my religious exemption form for a specific reason,” Berg said. “That it’s a chance to stand up for the unborn. That is my objection to it. The fetal cell lines used in the process to create this vaccine. So it’s an opportunity for me to have a voice for the unborn that didn’t have a choice in this.”
And he’s not willing to let Inslee take that away from him.
“There’s nothing that anyone or any governmental entity can do to get me to disregard what God has placed on my heart,” Berg said. “There’s nothing that can be done to me, promised to me, or taken away from me to dissuade me from my God-given convictions. So, yes, I’m 100% ready to be terminated October 18, and I can’t be swayed from that.”
WSP heading for a staffing crisis
If the employees seeking accommodation and those ideologically opposed to Inslee’s overreach are fired, the WSP will see an unprecedented staffing crisis.
The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH obtained an internal poll of members taken from Aug. 9-17. When asked if they plan to refuse the vaccination, even at the risk of termination, 295 troopers said yes. In a more general question, 449 troopers said they disagree with mandatory vaccinations; only 19 said they supported it.
Last Friday, the association sent out an email to members, also obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
“Important questions need to be addressed, including what the agency will look like with a 20-35 percent loss of employees? How will the agency deploy resources to the areas that are most impacted?” the letter asks.
Trooper Robert LaMay, a 22-year veteran, is refusing the vaccine. He will be fired. Speaking in his personal capacity, he warned of what’s to come, echoing some of the same concerns as Berg.
“I don’t know if people understand the amount of numbers we’re talking about for state employees that are looking at leaving,” LaMay told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I mean, we’re talking, just patrol, 400 or 500, 600 people. We have probably 800 guys that actually really work the road, the rest of them are management positions, things of that nature, … detectives. So if just a quarter of those types of people actually refused to get the vaccination and they are terminated on [Oct. 18]? That’s what the citizens of the state are actually looking at.”
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