With the U.S. Supreme Court's denial to stop the vaccine mandate in New York, a political science professor said that the move did not only violate the health care workers' religious conviction but their conscience as well.
"From the start of the religious-appeal process against COVID mandates, I've been concerned that these appeals are more often labeled by employers as 'religious exemptions.' They ought to be called religious/conscientious exemptions - that is, appeals based not merely on one's religious faith but on conscience. This is a critical distinction," Dr. Paul Kengor, a Grove City College professor and an author, explained in his article on The Christian Post.
On Dec. 13, six justices turned down the emergency requests to block the mandate, while Justices Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented. Gorsuch, who argued that the ruling was unconstitutional, was disappointed with his colleagues who voted in its favor, especially with Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett who are deemed conservatives.
Gorsuch pointed out that the applicants are not "anti-vaxxers who object to all vaccines" but are simply defending their religious belief "to oppose abortion in any form," noting that the vaccines are made up with aborted fetal cell lines. He also recognized the service of the health care workers during the pandemic's onset, echoing their sentiment that Governor Kathy Hochul's action to ignore their request for exemption is an act of "ingratitude."
Kengor observed that Hochul invoked her religious belief to defend her vaccine mandate but ignored this First Amendment right for the health care workers to protect themselves. With the Supreme Court's response, the professor said that it "effectively shielded" the governor instead of the health care workers.
He shared that "conscientious objection" can be traced back in America's history, recalling James Madison's statement on conscience, saying that it is a person's possession "more sacred than his castle."
"Just as one has the right to property, one has the right to conscience, which the state should not infringe upon. Your conscience is yours, and it's sacred. In fact, it's part of an eternal nature that transcends the mere physical," the professor added.
Madison, hailed as the "Father of the Constitution," reportedly also stated that "all men are entitled to the full and free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience." Thus his argument to include the freedom of conscience in the Bill of Rights but only failed.
Further, Kengor criticized the liberals for supporting conscience on controversial issues, such as the Vietnam War, but denied this right to the Baptist florist and Colorado baker Jack Phillips who declined to engage their services to same-gender weddings, as well as the Americans today who are opposing the vaccine mandate.
Moreover, he remembered Pope John Paul II and Thomas Rourke who also defended man's freedom of conscience.
"For our modern state to act as an obstacle to an individual moral relationship with God is an affront. It is an outrage. Not only would popes be outraged but so would our founding fathers," Kengor stressed.
Supporting the argument of Madison on "conviction and conscience," the professor emphasized that "modern Americans stand on firm ground whether they appeal to their religion or conscience," including the issue on vaccine requirement.
"This should be a matter of not only religion but conscience. It's incumbent upon critics and HR departments and governments to realize and honor this. In this nation, your conscience must remain sacred," Kengor concluded.