Judge Rules That New York State Must Allow Healthcare Workers a Religious Exemption to Vaccine

A federal judge ruled to block the state of New York from sanctioning healthcare professionals who decline the coronavirus vaccine for purposes of religious exemption on Tuesday.

Judge David Hurd blocked the New York Department of Health from taking any adverse action against the licenses or job status of vaccine objectors who work in healthcare.

The Department of Health is barred from taking any action, disciplinary or otherwise, against the licensure, certification, residency, admitting privileges or other professional status or qualification of any of the plaintiffs on account of their seeking or having obtained a religious exemption from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination,” Hurd wrote in a 27-page ruling.

A group of conservative Catholic attorneys affiliated with the Thomas More Society had sued on behalf of 17 doctors and nurses who object to being compelled to receive medicine they don’t want or need. Christopher A. Ferrara, special counsel to the Thomas More Society, described his clients as objecting to the use of cloned fetal cell lines in the vaccine’s development. New York state had sought to compel at least one shot of the vaccination for healthcare workers by September 27th.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “requires employers to accommodate religious beliefs, practices and observances if the beliefs are ‘sincerely held’ and the reasonable accommodation poses no undue hardship on the employer.

The ruling by Hurd, which acts as a temporary stay, also prevents New York state from taking any action against private companies that do accept religious exemption as a just cause to decline the vaccine. New York had sought to punish companies under the state’s existing vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York is pledging to fight to overturn Judge Hurd’s ruling in higher courts, in pursuit of enforcing vaccine mandates.

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