Two days after being sued by a Roman Catholic nun who provides free medical services to the poor, the District of Columbia seemed to capitulate on March 11 by granting the nun a religious exemption to the district’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers. But Sister Deirdre Byrne’s attorney said on March 12 that the lawsuit isn’t going away—at least not for the time being—because the exemption may be revoked by the D.C. government at any time.
Byrne is a member and superior of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and a retired U.S. Army colonel who served overseas as a soldier and missionary. A medical doctor, she’s double board-certified in family medicine and general surgery.
Christopher Ferrara, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm that’s representing Byrne, said his client has a “deep and sincere religious opposition” to all three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States because “they have been tested, developed, or produced with cell lines derived from abortions, something to which Sister Deirdre has deep and sincere religious opposition.”
Byrne grabbed national attention when she delivered a pro-life address to the Republican National Convention on Aug. 26, 2020, describing the unborn as “the largest marginalized group in the world,” and President Donald Trump as “the most pro-life president this nation has ever had, defending life at all stages.”
“As a physician, I can say without hesitation: Life begins at conception. While what I have to say may be difficult for some to hear, I am saying it because I am not just pro-life, I am pro-eternal life. I want all of us to end up in heaven together someday.”
The 484-page legal complaint (pdf) in the case, Byrne v. Bowser, court file 1:22-cv-655, was filed on March 9 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The defendants are the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, and D.C. Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt. Bowser and Nesbitt are being sued in their official capacities.