On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in New York.
According to CNBC, the legal challenge was filed by a group of 20 doctors and nurses, most of whom are Catholic. The healthcare professionals argued that the mandate is unconstitutional because it excludes religious exemptions, forcing them to choose between their religious beliefs and jobs.
Three of the court’s six-member conservative justice majority – Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito – dissented.
Gorsuch noted that the applicants were not “anti-vaxxers” but rather, they refused to take the current lineup of COVID-19 vaccines because they “depended upon abortion-derived fetal cell lines in its production or testing.” As Catholics, the healthcare workers maintain that their religion “teaches them to oppose abortion at any form,” the justice added.
In his dissent, Gorsuch pointed out that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul omitted religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, something her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had included during his time in office. Additionally, Hochul updated the mandate to prevent healthcare workers who refused to comply from receiving unemployment insurance benefits.
New York, Maine and Rhode Island are the only states that do not currently accommodate healthcare workers who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine based on a religious objection.
The Supreme Court previously turned away a similar challenge presented by healthcare workers from Maine. The same three justices dissented in that case as did in the suit brought by New York healthcare professionals.
According to a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Interfaith Youth Core, Americans are largely divided over religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Monday’s decision comes weeks after a federal judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction against President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers nationwide.
Despite the court’s decision, some of the largest U.S. hospital systems are dropping their vaccine mandates to alleviate labor shortages. According to the Wall Street Journal, HCA Healthcare Inc. HCA +0.00% and Tenet Healthcare Corp are among the hospital systems dropping the mandate. Nonprofit organizations such as AdventHealth and the Cleveland Clinic have also dropped the mandate.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.