Republican state lawmakers hit out at comparisons being drawn between the murder of more than six million Jews by the Nazis and the requirement to be vaccinated against Covid-19 following Friday’s tense meeting. Nazi authorities forced Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing as a means of identification in the 1930s and 1940s.
Republican Senate President Ty Masterson described the references as “inappropriate” and Republican Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman called it “disappointing” – despite both being opposed to vaccine mandates.
The condemnation comes after both Republican state lawmakers and anti-vaccine protesters have made repeated comments attempting to tie the mandates to the Holocaust.
The latest comparison came on Friday when a group of anti-vaxxers attended a Special Committee on Government Overreach hearing wearing yellow stars on their chests.
The hearing heard from members of the public and business groups who are calling on the state to allow residents to be able to access unemployment insurance if they lose their jobs for failing to get vaccinated and for employees to be able to claim religious exemptions without showing any proof.
In the hearing, Daran Duffy, who made a failed bid for mayor of Kansas City in the summer, told lawmakers he didn’t think it was offensive to Jewish people that he attended the meeting sporting a yellow star, reported the Kansas City Star.
He claimed the US was on track for a catastrophe like the Holocaust and said the star was to remind people that “every single thing that Hitler did he did in accordance with the laws of his country”.
Democratic State Senator Pat Pettey told him he was “desecrating that memory” of the deaths of Jewish people.
“Millions of people were killed – we are not talking about millions of people being killed here,” said Pettey.
At a hearing last month, State Rep Brenda Landwehr made similar comments comparing the vaccine mandate to “racism against the modern day Jew” which she likened to anyone who disagrees with it.
She then said the language used by a Democratic lawmaker reminded her of a documentary she had watched on the Nazis and agreed with a union president that the mandate was similar to the yellow stars Jewish people were forced to wear.
“Do I believe that’s what we’re trying to do? I hope not,” she said.
While many Republicans stayed silent on these previous comments, several spoke out to condemn the comparison after Friday’s hearing.
Mr Masterson released a statement on Twitter attempting to distance the party from the stance.
“Senate Republicans reject, in the strongest possible terms, any analogies to the Holocaust. Such comparisons are inappropriate and bear no resemblance to the issues we are debating today,” Masterson wrote.
Mr Ryckman also released a statement, saying: “Let me be clear: the issues being debated today are important to KS, but they are in no way comparable to what millions of Jews endured who were ripped from their families, & marked for death by the Nazis.”
The state’s Democratic Governor Laura Kelly went further, calling the comments and actions by the anti-vaxxers antisemitic.
“I condemn these profoundly offensive statements that are an insult to those who died in the Holocaust. Antisemitism has no place in Kansas,” she said in a statement.
Others also took to social media to slam their actions, with gun control activist David Hogg branding it “disgusting”.
“Reason 1,385,858,848,938 we need to fund education on holocaust history way more,” he tweeted.
“This is disgusting and needs to be denounced immediately. Anti-semitism is growing in this country and more people need to be denouncing it.”
President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate requires all workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by 4 January or be subjected to weekly testing.
The nation’s roughly 17 million healthcare workers do not have the option to opt for testing.
Federal workers also do not have the testing option and have until 22 November to get the shots.
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