House Speaker Philip Gunn discusses his plan to rework Mississippi's tax structure, including eliminating the income tax and raising the sales tax. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, who often equates his public policy decisions with his religious beliefs, has turned to the Bible to urge Mississippians to take the COVID-19 vaccination.

In a social media post, the Republican House speaker, who had the coronavirus in the summer of 2020, said Mississippians should get vaccinated not only to protect themselves, but also to protect their neighbors. Gunn turned to the scripture where Jesus urged people “to love thy neighbor as thyself.”

He said getting the vaccine was the same as people stepping up during World War II to help the country, or in more recent times after Hurricane Katrina or after the countless tornadoes that have struck the state.

“We have a history of putting others first before ourselves, and I think that same attitude needs to come to the forefront now,” Gunn said. “Here we are in a time of tough need and time of crisis. I would argue we should put each other first…

“We live in a community,” Gunn continued. “We care about our neighbors and our friends, and we do things for their best interest. We are living out the second great command that God gave us. So, with that in mind I would make an appeal to you: The best thing you can do to help your neighbors and friends and help our community and our state right now is to get the vaccine. It is the best tool that we have to fight the virus. I would urge each of us to get the vaccine.”

Gunn used similar language from the Bible when he became the most prominent Republican in statewide office to advocate for changing the Mississippi flag to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its design. He led that effort last year in the Mississippi Legislature.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, also has urged people to get the vaccine.

Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and a surging number of COVID-19 cases, placing an historic strain on the state’s health care system.

READ MORE: Reeves counters top doctor’s masking advice during his first news conference in months

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.