The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted against blocking a New York COVID-19 vaccine mandate that did not provide religious exemptions.
In a statement following that 6-3 decision, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch chastised his colleagues in the majority.
Democratic governor heralds decision
A group of about 20 Catholic health care professionals challenged the mandate but the nation’s highest court dismissed their request for an injunction.
In addition to Gorsuch, the dissenting justices were fellow conservatives Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the rest of the conservative wing — Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh — in siding with the liberals.
For her part, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul praised the ruling in a statement vaguely claiming that it would keep New Yorkers “safe” amid the ongoing pandemic.
Gorsuch, on the other hand, was clearly concerned about the impact of the split ruling. He issued a blistering dissent accusing New York of failing to either accommodate religious opposition to the vaccine or demonstrate why it is medically necessary to disallow exemptions to the mandate.
Gorsuch hits back at Hochul
“New York has presented nothing to suggest that accommodating the religious objectors before us would make a meaningful difference to the protection of public health,” Gorsuch claimed. “The State has not even tried.”
He expressed agreement with the petitioners’ complaint that the mandate is unconstitutional, writing that the “executive decree clearly interferes with the free exercise of religion — and does so seemingly based on nothing more than fear and anger at those who harbor unpopular religious beliefs.”
As for the governor, Gorsuch noted that she “intentionally” removed a religious exemption that had been promised by her predecessor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, before he resigned amid a sexual misconduct scandal earlier this year.
Turning his attention to fellow justices who failed to intervene against the “irreparable injury” that New York is inflicting on health care workers, Gorsuch concluded: “To add insult to injury, we allow the State to deny these individuals unemployment benefits too. One can only hope today’s ruling will not be the final chapter in this grim story.”