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NY judge blocks vaccine mandate for Christian health workers on religious freedom grounds

  A New York judge issued a small victory for religious freedom when he temporarily blocked the state’s vaccine requirement for healthcare w...

 A New York judge issued a small victory for religious freedom when he temporarily blocked the state’s vaccine requirement for healthcare workers in his ruling of a suit filed by 17 nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers who cite religious objections on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge David Hurd in Utica said in a written order that he was blocking the vaccine mandate on healthcare workers from taking effect on September 27 because it does not allow for exemptions based on workers’ religious beliefs.

The written order represents a win, if only temporary, for religious freedom, which has been another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

All 17 plaintiffs disguised their identities using pseudonyms in the suit, where they alleged that the vaccine mandate violated parts of the U.S. Constitution, the New York State Human Rights Law, and New York City Human Rights Law, due to the state Department of Health’s failure to provide an exemption from the mandate for “sincere religious beliefs that compel the refusal of such vaccination.”

The healthcare professionals include practicing doctors, nurses, a nuclear medicine technologist, a cognitive rehabilitation therapist, and a physician’s liaison who are all of Christian faith and cite specific issues with the testing and development of the vaccine, namely the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses, in their refusal of the shot.

While the suit says they are not “anti-vaxxers” who oppose all vaccines, they oppose the coronavirus vaccine as a matter of religious conviction on medical cooperation in abortion, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs plan to proceed anonymously because they “run the risk of ostracization, threats of harm, immediate firing and other retaliatory consequences if their names become known,” the suit says. These are side effects Americans across the country who oppose the vaccine also experience.

Hurd gave the state until September 22 to respond to the lawsuit. A hearing will be held on September 28 to determine whether or not the vaccine requirement is blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of the case.

While many on Twitter were predictably outraged by the ruling, others were happy to see their freedom to choose upheld:

Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in hot water for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic among other things, issued the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers last month. When announced, about 75% of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers were reportedly fully vaccinated.

The New York Attorney General’s office, the lawyers for the plaintiffs, the health department of New York state, and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests, according to several outlets.

President Joe Biden announced new federal vaccine mandates last week for all federal workers and some private sector and health care employees, impacting as many as 100 million Americans, according to Reuters.

Many private businesses have already imposed vaccine requirements, but they must offer exemptions to those with a disability or “sincerely held” religious belief according to provisions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

New York City’s municipal unions also saw a win on Tuesday night when a Manhattan Supreme Court judge temporarily blocked Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s vaccine mandate for Department of Education workers that required employees to have at least one vaccine dose by September 27 or face termination, according to the New York Post.

Last week, it was ruled that DOE workers were eligible to apply for medical or religious exemptions from the shot.

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