U.S. District Judge David Hurd granted a preliminary injunction that ruled in favor of 17 healthcare workers in New York who applied to be exempted from the state's COVID vaccine mandate due to religious reasons. The preliminary injunction, which was granted on Tuesday, is effective statewide and will temporarily prohibit New York from forcing employers to let go of medical workers who seek a religious exemption from the COVID vaccine mandate.
"The question presented by this case is not whether plaintiffs and other individuals are entitled to a religious exemption from the State's workplace vaccination requirement," Judge Hurd wrote, as reported by Fox News. "Instead, the question is whether the State's summary imposition of [the mandate] conflicts with plaintiffs' and other individuals' federally protected right to seek a religious accommodation from their individual employers."
"The answer to this question is clearly yes," the federal judge concluded. Judge Hurd also left an open possibility for an appeal citing that "the issues in dispute are of exceptional importance to the health and the religious freedoms of our citizens."
On August 26, the New York State Department of Health issued an emergency regulation requiring most healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID by September 27 or be subjected to termination. On September 14, Thomas More Society attorneys filed a lawsuit citing discrimination and constitutional violation in behalf of 17 Roman Catholic and Baptist medical workers.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Christopher Ferrera applauded the court's decision to rule in favor of medical workers seeking religious exemption from COVID vaccine mandates, highlighting how they must not be treated as "disease-carrying villains" or be "kicked to the curb" after more than a year of serving in the frontlines to save people's lives.
Ferrera argued that some of the medical workers even contracted the coronavirus while treating COVID patients but later on recovered and were allowed to return to their jobs "with the same protective measures that were good enough for the 18 months that they were the heroes in the battle against the virus." The Thomas More Society Special Counsel added, "There is no 'science' to show that these same measures are suddenly inadequate - especially when they are allowed for those with medical exemptions."
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul defended the state's COVID vaccine mandate through a statement released on Tuesday that underscored her responsibility as governor to "protect" her constituents, which she said can be done by mandating healthcare workers to get vaccinated against COVID. She also committed to standing behind the state's decision and even fight for it in court to "keep New Yorkers safe."
Meanwhile in Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' spokeswoman Christina Pushaw explained to the Washington Post that vaccine hesitancy is "complicated" and that "overreaching government mandates" such as the Biden administration's actually does the opposite and increases instead of decreases vaccine hesitancy. Pushaw argued that while getting the COVID shot is a "responsible choice," "focusing on vaccination to the exclusion of anything else is shortsighted."
In fact, right wing leaders have long been touting alternative COVID treatments such as ivermectin, monoclonal antibodies, and more, and even underscored the importance of natural immunization from a previous COVID infection.