A federal judge in New York ruled on Tuesday that State Health Officials must allow employers to grant religious exemptions to a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers while a lawsuit challenging the mandate proceeds through the courts, according to the NY Times.
“The question is whether the State’s summary imposition of § 2.61 conflicts with plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers,” wrote Judge David N. Hurd, a Bill Clinton appointee.
“The answer to this question is clearly yes. Plaintiffs have established that § 2.61 conflicts with longstanding federal protections for religious beliefs and that they and others will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief,” reads the 27-page ruling, which offers a reprieve for thousands of unvaccinated doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who would have otherwise been fired or prevented from working on Tuesday if the ruling had gone the other way.
Hurd issued a preliminary injunction preventing the NY Department of Health from acting against any employer who grants religious exemptions, adding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their case.
“The Department of Health is barred from interfering in any way with the granting of religious exemptions from Covid-19 vaccination going forward, or with the operation of exemptions already granted,” reads the ruling.
New York Governor Kathy M. Hochul indicated that the state would appeal.
“My responsibility as governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that,” she said. “I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.”
In late-August, Hochul’s administration overrode a religious exemption contained within former Gov. Cuomo’s original vaccine mandate – prompting 17 healthcare workers to sue the state in federal court, claiming that the mandate conflicted with their religious beliefs “because they all employ fetal cell lines derived from procured abortion in testing.”
“With this decision, the court rightly recognized that yesterday’s ‘front line heroes’ in dealing with Covid cannot suddenly be treated as disease-carrying villains and kicked to the curb by the command of a state health bureaucracy,” said Christopher Ferrara of the Thomas More Society.
Tuesday’s order technically extends an earlier temporary restraining order which applied to religious exemptions filed in mid-September onward – effectively allowing many healthcare workers to continue working even after the mandate went into effect.
In the federal case, titled Dr. A et al v. Hochul, the 17 health care workers argued that they could not consent to be inoculated with vaccines “that were tested, developed or produced with fetal cell lines derived from procured abortions.”
Pope Francis has said that Catholics may get the Covid-19 vaccines; most of the health care workers suing in the case are Catholic. But Judge Hurd did not question whether the health care workers were correct in their religious objections. Instead, he focused on their broader constitutional right to have their religious beliefs considered, and when possible, accommodated. -NYT
Now do cops, firefighters, teachers, and other professions.
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