Judge rules against NY in case about religious exemptions to coronavirus vaccine mandates

It’s one of the biggest issues of our time: can the government, in the name of public health, mandate the coronavirus vaccine without a religious exemption?

According to Fox News, a federal judge just answered “no” to that question, stopping the state of New York from forcing employers to fire employees who seek a religious exemption to the state’s coronavirus mandate. 

“The question presented by this case is not whether plaintiffs and other individuals are entitled to a religious exemption from the State’s workplace vaccination requirement,” U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd wrote in his opinion. “Instead, the question is whether the State’s summary imposition of [the mandate] conflicts with plaintiffs’ and other individuals’ federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers.”

“The answer to this question is clearly yes,” Hurd concluded.

The case

Hurd, here, was actually ruling on a preliminary injunction that would stop New York State from implementing its coronavirus vaccine mandate without a religious exemption.

The preliminary injunction is part of a lawsuit filed by a group of New York health care workers back in September. The group of workers consists of 17 workers who are either Roman Catholic or Baptist.

In the lawsuit, the workers are alleging that they were discriminated against and that New York’s vaccine mandate, without the religious exemption, is unconstitutional.

The New York State Department of Health, in late August, issued an emergency regulation that required the state’s healthcare workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by September 27th. The mandate does not allow for religious exemptions, and failure by an employee to comply results in termination.

Hurd’s decision puts a stop to this, but only temporarily, while the case proceeds.

Looking forward

In his decision, Hurd wrote: “Because the issues in dispute are of exceptional importance to the health and the religious freedoms of our citizens, an appeal may very well be appropriate.”

And, it does indeed appear that an appeal from New York will be forthcoming. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY), on Tuesday, put out a statement saying:

My responsibility as Governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe.

This particular case is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to this issue. Similar cases are expected to crop up across the country. It appears likely that at some point the U.S. Supreme Court will have to weigh in.

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