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An Oregon trooper was placed on paid leave after he posted a video on Instagram saying he will defy the liberal state’s vaccine mandate for government workers.
“I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, to protect the freedom of the people who pay my salary,” Zachary Kowing, 29, said in the video posted to Instagram last week. “I do not work for my governor but for them.”
“I have personal and religious reasons as to why I will not take the vaccine, as well as the freedom to choose not to,” he said in the video, which was filmed in his patrol car. He added that he has “fallen in line” for more than a year “with these useless, ineffective mask mandates and I will no more.”
Kowing, who identified himself in the video as a Christian, husband, father and a police officer, was placed on leave Wednesday, his attorney, Dan Thenell, confirmed to Oregon Live.
The video comes after liberal Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order last month that requires all executive branch employees to get vaccinated.
A state police spokeswoman declined to comment on Kowing’s comments to the outlet, saying they were personnel matters.
“We just got that information yesterday,” she said. “It’s an all new investigation.”
Kowing, an eight-year employee of the Oregon State Police, noted in the video that he would “likely get fired” for the comments, but said that he is “nonetheless exercising my First Amendment right to speak freely” about Brown’s vaccine mandate.
“Miss governor, I think you’ve forgotten that you were elected by the people, therefore you work for the people. The title governor does not give free rein to force medical decisions upon us,” he said.
Kowing said in the video that if someone chose to get the vaccine, “that is your freedom.”
“But if you got the vaccine, out of fear. Be careful. You are slowly giving up the freedoms that so many have fought for,” he said, and encouraged people to “to look deep down and decide if you’re going to fall in line as sheep, or if you’re going to stand up for the rights that we have for the short time we still have them.”
Oregon has had some of the strictest coronavirus measures and mandates in the last year, with Brown issuing a new outdoor mask mandate at the end of August, regardless of a person’s vaccination status.
“The Delta variant is spreading fast and wide, throwing our state into a level of crisis we have not yet seen in the pandemic,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high. Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its guidance, “In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.” And notes that, “In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.”
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