Three Conservative Justices Dissent From Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Appeal on New York’s Health Care Worker Vaccine Mandate

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The state has denied all religious exemptions

The Supreme Court refused on June 30 to take up an appeal by 16 health care workers who object on religious grounds to New York state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers.

New York’s mandate offers medical exemptions but not religious exemptions.

The petitioners, who served New York communities throughout the COVID–19 pandemic, object to all COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.

Three conservative justices dissented from the high court’s refusal to grant the petition for review filed Feb. 14 in the case known as Dr. A v. Hochul, court file 21-1143.

In the unsigned order, the other justices did not explain why they decided against hearing the case. Justices usually do not offer explanations when deciding which appeals to take on. For such a petition to be granted, at least four of the nine justices must agree.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion (pdf) dissenting from the denial of the petition, which was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

Thomas recounted that the petitioners, after being forced to choose between their employment and their faith, sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, arguing the vaccine mandate violated the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The district court sided with the health care workers and issued an injunction blocking the mandate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit then overruled the district court.

Previously, Christopher Ferrara, who represented the workers before the district court, said the mandate’s “unprecedented First Amendment violation could not be more apparent.” Ferrara is special counsel at the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm.

“Two doctors working in the same hospital, with the same patients, are treated differently based on nothing but the religious motivation of the one seeking a religious exemption versus the one seeking a medical exemption.”

By Matthew Vadum

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