OK Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order Prohibiting Healthcare Company from Firing Employees Seeking Religious Exemptions

  Amanda Casanova | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Tuesday, November 16, 2021
OK Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order Prohibiting Healthcare Company from Firing Employees Seeking Religious Exemptions

An Oklahoma judge has granted a temporary restraining order stopping a healthcare company from firing unvaccinated workers who had been denied religious exemptions from the company's vaccination mandate.

According to CBN News, the company, Ascension Health, cannot fire those unvaccinated employees, Tulsa County Presiding District Judge William LaFortune ruled last week.

The decision came after Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor filed a lawsuit to keep Ascension's St. John Medical Center from firing or suspending employees who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 because of religious reasons.

"This evening, the Tulsa District Court granted the State's Application for Temporary Restraining Order in our case to keep Ascension Healthcare from carrying out its plan to fire employees who were unfairly denied religious exemptions from their COVID-19 vaccination mandate," O'Connor said in a statement. "This is a win for religious freedom, and our office will continue to fight against unlawful religious discrimination."

"Healthcare heroes who sought a religious exemption on this and other sincerely held religious belief grounds have been flatly rejected by Ascension," O'Connor added. "In so doing, Ascension committed religious discrimination against Oklahoma healthcare heroes who oppose abortion."

O'Conner says his Office of Civil Rights Enforcement will now complete its own investigation or try to reach an agreement with Ascension.

Judge LaFortune scheduled a Dec. 1 hearing date for the state's emergency request.

Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization with its main headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. With more than 2,600 healthcare sites in 19 states, it is one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the country.

The company had given all of its employees, vendors and volunteers a Nov. 12 deadline to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza.

"As a leading healthcare provider, we continue to put the safety of our associates and those we are privileged to serve at the forefront of everything we do," the company said in a statement. "This is why we have required our associates to receive both the COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine."

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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.