Warren Hamilton

Warren Hamilton

An Oklahoma lawmaker filed a bill that criminalizes schools and state or local government requiring protective face coverings and immunizations.

District 7 State Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, filed Senate Bill 352 to stop schools and state or local government from requiring a person to undergo unwanted medical procedure, use any medical device or wear a face covering.

Hamilton said he believes government does not have authority to tell people they must wear face coverings or get a vaccine.

“The government does not have those powers delegated to it under our constitution — they don’t have the authority to do that,” Hamilton said.

The U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment gives states all powers not given to the federal government and myriad U.S. Supreme Court decisions allow states to take public health emergency actions, according to the American Bar Association.

Oklahoma's 11 O.S. 22-120 states a municipal governing body can enact and enforce ordinances, rules and regulations to protect public health and “may make regulations to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases into the municipality and may enforce quarantine laws within five (5) miles of the municipal limits.”

Masks became a hot-button issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows COVID-19 has killed more than 3,000 Oklahomans and 69 citizens of counties which Hamilton represents as District 7 state senator — seven in Haskell, 12 in Hughes, seven in Latimer, 16 in Okfuskee, and 27 in Pittsburg — as of Wednesday.

A scientific brief from the Centers for Disease Control details data supporting masks as effective preventive measures to reduce spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends communities consistently wear masks along with other preventive measures to help slow spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization states “masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives.”

S.B. 352 states no political subdivision of the state or state entity can “compel or coerce any person under its jurisdiction to undergo any unwanted medical procedure including, but not limited to, an immunization, to use any unwanted medical device or to wear any face covering,” if the bill passes.

“A person who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” the bill states.

The McAlester News-Capital decided to cancel a political forum in October 2020 after Hamilton disagreed with the newspaper’s policy requiring anyone entering the building to wear a protective face covering.

Hamilton said businesses and non-government employers would still have a right to require face coverings if his bill passes, but he disagrees with government enforcing such mandates.

He maintains that everyone should practice social distancing, washing hands and other practices to stop the spread of COVID-19 — but he doesn’t want to be forced to wear a mask.

“If you think that a mask, any mask, is keeping you safe, then by all means wear it,” Hamilton said. “Just don’t make me do it.”

“I just want to retain people’s freedom to choose what they think is best for the health of them and the people that are under their care,” he added.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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