Court axes religious freedom challenge to NY state vax mandate



A federal appeals court struck down a temporary injunction on Friday that had New York State health care workers able to seek a religious exemption to avoid getting their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Three judges from the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit sided with New York State’s requirement that all health care workers must receive a COVID-19 vaccination regardless of religious beliefs or face termination.

Gov. Kathy Hochul chimed in on the ruling.

“On Day One, I pledged as Governor to battle this pandemic and take bold action to protect the health of all New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement.

“I commend the Second Circuit’s findings affirming our first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate, and I will continue to do everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe.”

The New York State Department of Health and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in August a requirement that said all state health care employees had to get at least their first dose of the vaccines by Sept. 27. The DOH had considered religious exemptions before only allowing medical exemptions.

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she was pleased with the Second Circuit’s ruling.
John Lamparski/Sipa USA

The religious-freedom lawsuit challenging the mandate was filed in September against Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and the DOH by 17 anonymous health care workers, a majority of whom are Catholic.

An upstate judge granted the plaintiffs’ request to suspend the vaccination mandate, granting a preliminary injunction on Oct. 13. The appeals court ruling reversed that decision.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are planning an appeal to the US Supreme Court, which denied a similar injunction in Maine on Friday.

Three judges from the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit said NY can enforce the vaccine mandate.
Christopher Sadowski

“New York’s mandate forces an abominable choice on New York healthcare workers: abandon their faith or lose their careers,” attorney Cameron Lee Atkinson said naming three nurses in the suit.

“They have committed their futures to God’s hands, and we remain optimistic that the United States Supreme Court will strike down New York’s discriminatory mandate as violating the First Amendment.”

As of Oct. 27, 93 percent of the state’s 450,000 hospital workers had received their complete vaccination shots, according to data from the DOH.

Medical personnel adjust their personal
There were 17 anonymous health care workers who filed a lawsuit against NY’s mandate.
John Minchillo, File/AP

Some 97 percent of the state’s employees at skilled nursing facilities were vaccinated and 97 percent of adult care facility employees were vaccinated as of Oct. 29, the DOH reported.

With Post wires


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