New York Governor vows to fight lawsuits over vaccination mandate | New York News
By MARINA VILLENEUVE, Associated Press
ALBANY, NY (AP) – New York Governor Kathy Hochul this week vowed to fight a lawsuit launched by a group of Christian health practitioners who argue that New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for de many healthcare workers is unconstitutional because it lacks a religious exemption.
A federal judge in Utica on Tuesday temporarily barred the state from enforcing any part of its mandate prohibiting religious exemptions for healthcare workers. The court will hold oral arguments in the coming weeks.
The judge’s order means healthcare workers must still get their shots before September 27 – but for now, they can ask for religious exemptions.
Hochul said on Wednesday she was not aware of any major religious groups that have banned its adherents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Everyone, from the pope to the bottom, encourages people to get vaccinated,” she said, referring to Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church.
New York City nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers involved in the lawsuit say they don’t want to be forced to take a vaccine that uses aborted fetal cell lines in their testing, development or production.
Fetal cell lines have been used during research and development of Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, and during production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Thomas More Society lead attorney Stephen Crampton, who represents the anonymous group of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers, said he was confident the courts would find people have the right to refuse the vaccine on religious grounds, even if they are part of a religious group that approves the shots.
“My sincere religious beliefs may not be 100% the same as the leader of my church or denomination,” Crampton said. “And the law respects that and it should. “
The country’s highest court has long agreed that a law that applies to everyone – like income tax – does not need religious exemption.
“But the court signaled that they could walk away from that,” said Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, professor of law at UC Hastings College of the Law.
Reiss said this opened the door for religious freedom advocates worried about COVID-19 mandates: “They’re hoping to convince the Supreme Court that you must have a religious exception to any vaccine warrant,” she said.
Crampton argued that the New York mandate goes against federal civil rights law: Title VII requires employers to provide religious accommodations to employees, unless it turns out to be “undue hardship. “.
Several legal experts have said this argument could gain traction in the courts. Experts also agreed that courts are primarily concerned with an individual’s own religious beliefs – not what religious leaders think.
“It is conceptually problematic for a state to say that we require private companies to impose a vaccination mandate on their employees without religious exemption,” said Brian Dean Abramson, assistant professor of vaccine law at Florida International University College of Law. “At the same time, it is important that there are other ways to avoid vaccination.”
Still, experts say New York could argue that its requirement is preferable to a universal mandate.
Hochul’s administration could also persuade the court that the need to vaccinate healthcare workers amid a slight increase in cases outweighs any need for a religious exemption. The state now averages about 5,200 new cases of COVID-19 per day, down from a low of about 300 per day at the end of June.
Crampton calls it “unfair” that New York regulations provide for a process of medical, but not religious, exemptions.
Professor Daniel Conkle of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law said New York could say its medical exemption is designed to protect public health, and that a religious exemption could jeopardize vaccination efforts and prove to be impossible to control.
A New York City federal judge on Sunday dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by Long Island nurses who said the lack of religious exemption violated their constitutional rights.
New York State has long demanded that healthcare workers be immunized against diseases that pose a major threat to public health, including measles, mumps and rubella. Schoolchildren also need to be vaccinated against many diseases.
The state does not offer religious exemptions for vaccination requirements for schoolchildren or healthcare workers, and has argued that it is also not required to do so for the COVID-19 vaccine. Courts have agreed that states are not required to offer a religious exemption for childhood immunizations.
College and university students, however, may be exempt from New York City vaccination warrants if they have “genuine and sincere religious beliefs that are contrary to the practices required here.” New York also has a religious exemption for the requirement to immunize infants born to mothers with hepatitis B.
The use of human cell lines is common in the manufacture of vaccines, including against rubella, chickenpox, shingles and hepatitis A. For decades, researchers have multiplied cells from a handful of legally aborted fetuses in the 1960s to produce human cell lines that provide used cell cultures. grow vaccines. These cell lines are also used to make drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis.
Religious leaders disagree on the issue: The Vatican has issued guidelines saying it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines developed or tested using cell lines from aborted fetuses when vaccines alternatives are not available.
When asked if health care practitioners have received other vaccines, Crampton said the group was not “anti-vax” in general.
Hochul, a Democrat, said the mandate was not “dictatorial” but based on the desire to save lives. She said getting the vaccine is the “best way” for people in healing professions to demonstrate their passion and concern for others.
Seven other states besides New York do not offer religious exemptions for vaccination requirements in schools and daycares, according to the Minnesota-based Immunization Action Coalition. Some have removed these exemptions in recent years over concerns over once-contained disease outbreaks: Radical Maine law removed religious and personal belief exemptions.
The Thomas More Society is a national, not-for-profit law firm that describes its mission as “restoring respect to the law of life, family and religious freedom.” Last year, the law firm represented two Catholic priests and three Orthodox Jews who succeeded in overthrowing the government of the day. Andrew Cuomo’s attendance limits for places of worship during the pandemic.
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