Senator Hensley (R-Hohenwald) knew the madness of Covid would never end on its own. A rural doctor, he had firsthand experience with colleagues who weaponized their expertise and saw the pandemic as a path to previously unreachable celebrity. Though the establishment press had long villainized the senator with urban-bubble hit pieces, he knew he had to take a stand when the first full legislative session of the pandemic began in 2021. So he introduced SB 320, The Medical Freedom Act, which simply yet eloquently stated amid its two pages “it is a discriminatory practice for a person to deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement on the grounds of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, the wearing or use of a medical device, or whether an individual has received medical treatment.”
Hensley’s bill would have put an end to public and private mask mandates, vaccine passports, and even venues requiring a negative Covid test for entry. Its passage would likely have circumvented the need for a Covid special session and eliminated the gaping holes in that piece of legislation that still allow such protocols Hensley’s bill addressed head on. The national media excoriated him while downplaying his medical credentials. The Commerce and Labor Committee of eight Republicans and a Democrat deferred it into oblivion before coming back to Legislative Plaza six months later to craft a pale imitation. “Higher ups in the administration didn’t want us to put limitations on businesses,” Hensley said. As a small-business owner, Hensley believes that, while government should limit interference on commerce, individual rights remain sacrosanct.
Undeterred by the bill’s failure, Hensley tried again this legislative session in collaboration with Rep. Terry Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) to fix vaccine passport loopholes in the Omnibus Bill, an attempt that failed in committee days after we first reported on it. “They don’t really want to face the tough issues,” Hensley said. In a General Assembly full of RHINOS who value lobbyists and power over those they represent, Hensley knows that sometimes a prophet is more welcome in his hometown.