Student requesting exemption from vaccination mandate should raise religious objections, UMN says in lawsuit – Twin Cities
In response to a student’s lawsuit over a coronavirus vaccine warrant that goes into effect Friday, the University of Minnesota has said it will grant a religious exemption to anyone who requests it.
The U said in a court file that as of Monday it had received 1,395 requests for exemption from students based on religious beliefs. Of these, 136 were returned for errors such as failure to include a notarized statement or use the U.
“None of the 1,395 claims, however, were dismissed on the merits,” wrote Senior Associate General Counsel Dan Herber in an affidavit.
The statement, filed Tuesday, was part of a response to a lawsuit filed Sept. 28 in St. Louis County District Court.
The anonymous complainant, a student from Duluth, had previously been infected with the coronavirus and said he would be transferred to another school rather than get the shot. He specifically challenged the U’s decision to allow exemptions for religious reasons, but not for other “conscientious” objections.
The U’s response almost prompted the student to ask for a religious exemption.
“There is no evidence in court that the petitioner would not qualify for an exemption if he applied for it,” the U said in opposition to a request for a temporary injunction.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Sam Diehl, said that based on this information, the injunction would not be necessary. He requested the cancellation of a court hearing Thursday.
“This change allows the petitioner to provide a notarized and ‘religious’ exemption form to the university by October 8, 2021, in good conscience,” Diehl wrote.
Diehl in a press release Wednesday accused President Joan Gabel of misleading students by saying the U would not offer exemptions to conscientious objectors.
“It appears Gabel’s statements limiting exemptions from conscience to ‘religion’ were a ruse designed to coerce bona fide, but non-religious, students into being vaccinated,” he said.
Asked for comment on Wednesday, U spokesperson Jake Ricker said, “The scope of the qualifying religious exemptions available to students, as our file with the St. Louis County District Court noted, is based on the United States Supreme Court and other relevant case law. We haven’t changed our position, we haven’t changed course and to suggest otherwise is completely wrong.
On the Duluth campus, the U said, 94 percent of students who informed the school of their immunization status reported receiving the vaccines; the rest requested exemptions, mainly for religious reasons, but a small number for medical reasons.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 disease. This vaccine and others have been shown to significantly reduce serious illness and death from the disease.