New Yorkers are currently facing some of the strictest and far-reaching COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the country.
As many health care workers claim religious objections to the vaccine and face termination for refusing the jab, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene on their behalf.
“The final chapter in this grim story”
With a clear conservative majority on the nation’s highest court, some Americans were clearly expecting a different outcome.
Three conservative justices — Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas — provided a dissenting opinion.
For his part, Gorsuch noted that the workers facing job losses now were being praised as heroes in the early days of the pandemic. He further noted that vaccine policies exclude those fired over mandate non-compliance from receiving unemployment benefits.
“We allow the State to insist on the dismissal of thousands of medical workers—the very same individuals New York has depended on and praised for their service on the pandemic’s front lines over the last 21 months,” the justice explained.
Gorsuch went on to express hope that the majority opinion “will not be the final chapter in this grim story.”
“Suspicion of those who hold unpopular religious beliefs”
The mandate in question has been criticized for making it more difficult for New Yorkers to access health care. Many hospitals are struggling with staffing shortages, including one Long Island emergency room forced to close for a week as a result.
Rather than respond by relaxing these requirements, however, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul opted to limit certain medical services. Her strict adherence to vaccination mandates might not be surprising in light of her prior comparison of the shots to a sacred mission and those who receive them to her “apostles.”
Gorsuch argued that Hochul “exudes suspicion of those who hold unpopular religious beliefs,” adding: “That alone is sufficient to render the mandate unconstitutional as applied to these applicants.”
Although former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed that a religious exemption would be built into the statewide mandate, Gorsuch slammed the current governor for stripping that provision away. New York “has not even tried” to defend its denial of religious exemptions as serving a vital public health interest, the conservative justice argued.
Despite the Supreme Court setback, lower federal courts have chipped away at the Biden administration’s mandates, which has given some unvaccinated health care workers a little breathing room.