Medical workers ask Supreme Court to block NY vaccine mandate lacking religious exemption.
Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).
A group of healthcare workers once again petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to block New York’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for healthcare employees, and allow religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate.
The Supreme Court previously declined to issue an emergency injunction in the case Dr. A v. Hochul, although three justices said they would have granted relief. On Feb. 14 the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Thomas More Society filed another petition for certiorari in the case at the Supreme Court.
The lawsuit against New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was filed on behalf of 17 medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, who say receiving the vaccine violates their religious convictions.
The medical professionals say they are willing to be tested frequently and wear additional personal protective equipment in lieu of receiving the vaccination.
On Aug. 18, 2021, Hochul signed into law a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. Initially, the law permitted an exemption for religious beliefs. This was removed Aug. 26.
The mandate stated that anyone who refused to get vaccinated would be fired, and would not be permitted to receive unemployment benefits.
While many of the plaintiffs are Catholics, Catholic leaders have encouraged Catholics to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Catholic teaching does, however, discourage the use of vaccine mandates, saying that people should not be coerced into violating their consciences.
The three coronavirus vaccines currently available in the United States were all either developed or produced using a fetal cell line that may have been derived from an elective abortion.
New York is one of three states that do not permit religious exemptions to their existing vaccine mandate.
“The Biden Administration and 47 states know that they need to protect religious liberty for healthcare workers,” Mark Rienzi, president of Becket and a professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told CNA Feb. 15.
“But New York is forcing hospitals to fire nurses who were frontline healthcare heroes in the earliest days of the pandemic — many of whom have already had COVID — just because of their religious objectives to the vaccines,” he said.
Rienzi told CNA that New York is engaging in “vindictive behavior” by revoking the unemployment benefits of these fired healthcare workers, something he says is “harmful to healthcare workers and to patients, and it violates the Constitution.”
“The Supreme Court should protect these workers and our healthcare system,” he said.
After New York’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers went into effect, 37,000 unvaccinated healthcare workers lost their jobs.
This then created an employee shortage in hospitals amid a surge in the number of coronavirus cases. To deal with this shortage, some hospitals introduced a policy allowing for COVID-positive — albeit fully vaccinated — doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to return to work before testing negative.
In January, the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s (D) vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, but permitted a mandate for healthcare workers to stand.